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With  Illustrations.  z\s.  net. 
{History  of  ihe  Great  War.) 


GERMAN  SEA-POWER  :  Its  Rise, 
Progress,  and  Economic  Basis. 
With  Maps  and  Appendices  giving 
the  Fleet  Laws,  etc.      15^.  net. 

By  PERCY  HURD  and 

SHIP :  Defence,  Commerce, 
Policy,     ^s.  6d.  net. 

All  Rights  Reserved 






Vol.  II 







The  Lords  Commissioners  of  the  Admiralty 
have  given  the  author  access  to  official  docu- 
ments in  the  preparation  of  this  work,  but 
they  are  in  no  way  responsible  for  the  ac- 
curacy of  its  statements  or  the  presentation 
of  the  facts. 

Printed  in  Great  Britain  hy 
Bazell,  Watson  <t   Viney,  Ld.,  London  and  Aylesbury. 


In  the  first  volume  of  this  History  of  the  part  which  the 
Merchant  Navy  took  in  the  Great  War,  the  record  was 
carried  down  to  the  early  months  of  1915,  when  the  con- 
science of  the  world  was  shocked  by  the  torpedoing  of 
the  Lusitania,  with  a  loss  of  nearly  1,200  lives.  The 
present  volume  continues  the  narrative  to  the  eve  of  the 
German  Declaration  of  "  unrestricted  submarine  warfare  " 
on  February  1st,  1917. 

During  this  period  of  twenty  months  the  war  at  sea 
passed  through  what  may  be  called  an  intermediate  stage. 
In  the  spring  of  1915  the  American  President  came  for- 
ward as  the  general  advocate  of  neutral  rights  at  sea. 
Although  he  confined  his  protests  to  cases  in  which  the 
sovereign  rights  of  the  United  States  had  been  disregarded, 
Mr.  Wilson  none  the  less  became,  in  effect,  the  spokesman 
of  all  neutrals.  The  sinking  of  the  Arabic  in  September 
brought  on  a  crisis  between  America  and  Germany,  and 
at  the  end  of  the  month  the  Imperial  Government  stated 
that  it  "  regretted  and  disapproved  "  the  incident.  No 
guarantee  for  the  future  was  given  ;  but  the  American 
Government  was  satisfied,  knowing,  probably,  that  the 
apology  meant  more  than  appeared.  Washington  had, 
in  fact,  scored  a  diplomatic  victory ;  for  the  German 
Government  had  ordered  their  submarine  commanders  to 
"  cease  from  any  form  of  submarine  war  on  the  West 
Coast  of  Great  Britain  or  in  the  Channel."  In  the  Medi- 
terranean, sinkings  went  on  much  as  usual,  as  there  was 
here  less  chance  of  injuring  American  citizens.  For  the 
rest  of  the  year  a  restricted  form  of  submarine  warfare, 
against  which  the  American  Government  made  no  protest, 
continued  in  the  zone  of  operations. 

The   High   Naval    Command    at   Berlin   obeyed   these 
restrictions    most  reluctantly,  and  pressed  their  Govern- 
ment for  wider  powers.     Early  in  the  new  year  the  Chief 
of  the  Great  General  Staff,  von  Falkenhayn,  reported  to 


the  Emperor  that  the  army  would  not  be  able  to  force 
a  decision  without  naval  assistance,  and  this  admission 
seems  to  have  given  new  force  to  the  naval  arguments 
for  unrestricted  submarine  warfare.  During  February 
1916  the  restrictive  rules  under  which  submarine  com- 
manders were  acting  were  cancelled  ;  and  on  March  24th 
the  steamer  Sussex,  which  had  a  number  of  American 
citizens  on  board,  was  torpedoed  without  warning  in  the 
English  Channel. 

Thoroughly  exasperated,  the  American  Government  now 
issued  what  amounted  to  an  ultimatum.  The  Germans 
gave  way,  and  early  in  May  Count  Bernstorff  presented 
a  Note  in  which  his  Government  promised  that  henceforth 
the  campaign  would  be  conducted  in  accordance  with  the 
general  principles  of  international  law,  and  that  no  vessel 
would  be  sunk  until  some  provision  had  been  made  for 
the  safety  of  the  passengers  and  crew. 

These  concessions  ushered  in  a  new  phase  of  the  con- 
flict. The  Imperial  Chancellor  had  yielded  to  the  American 
demands  in  the  teeth  of  fierce  opposition  from  the  officers 
of  the  naval  and  military  commands.  The  thought  of 
loyally  supporting  the  Government  in  the  attitude  it  had 
adopted  evidently  never  entered  their  minds,  as  the  events 
recorded  in  this  volume  attest ;  and  for  the  rest  of  the 
year  they  strove,  by  making  progressive  encroachments 
upon  the  pledges  given,  to  restore  the  submarine  campaign 
to  the  position  which  it  had  lost.  They  were  tolerably 
successful  ;  for  at  the  end  of  1916  merchant  vessels  were 
being  sunk  without  warning  in  the  Atlantic  and  North 
Sea  as  well  as  the  Mediterranean  :  in  January  1917  the 
number  of  lives  lost  in  British  merchant  ships  was  276, 
and  245  of  these  died  as  a  result  of  the  submarine  campaign. 
When,  a  few  weeks  later,  the  German  Government  declared 
unrestricted  submarine  war,  it  was  practically  announcing 
an  accomplished  fact,  but  the  decision  proved  the  final 
influence  which  brought  the  United  States  into  the  war. 

In  this  volume  an  attempt  has  been  made  to  reflect 
the  course  of  events  as  they  affected  merchant  seamen, 
and  all  who  were  forced  by  circumstances  to  travel  by 
sea.  It  traces  the  gradual  crescendo  of  callousness  ex- 
hibited by  the  enemy  seamen,  and  of  the  necessarily  slow 
evolution  of  measures  of  defence. 

Provision   had   been   made   by  the   Admiralty   against 


enemy  cruisers  which  might  escape  on  the  high  seas,  and 
that  these  measures  were  not  inadequate  experience 
proved.  By  the  end  of  March  1915,  as  has  been  recorded, 
this  menace  had  been  laid,  and  during  the  period  covered 
by  this  volume  the  only  losses  inflicted  by  enemy  surface 
craft  on  merchant  shipping  were  due  to  the  spasmodic 
appearance  of  raiders  whose  depredations  furnish  a  narra- 
tive of  permanent  interest  to  the  student  of  war.  The 
Admiralty  had  repeatedly  warned  the  nation  that  it  could 
give  no  guarantee  that  no  enemy  vessel  would  ever 
succeed  in  breaking  through,  by  night  or  in  thick  weather, 
the  cordon  provided  by  the  Grand  Fleet  and  its  auxiliary 

The  success  which  attended  the  dispositions  of  the 
Admiralty  after  the  institution  of  the  patrol  by  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron  exceeded  all  expectations.  The  stoppage 
of  seaborne  supplies  combined  with  the  system  of  com- 
mercial embargo  which  had  been  slowly  elaborated, 
became  so  effective,  in  spite  of  political  action  initiated 
by  neutral  States,  that  the  Germans  were  commercially 
isolated  from  the  rest  of  the  world,  except  in  so  far  as 
they  were  able  to  obtain  supplies  overland  from  neighbour- 
ing countries,  and  were  in  a  position  to  take  the  fullest 
advantage  of  the  protests  of  neutrals  against  the  strict 
enforcement  of  the  blockade. 

It  is  perhaps  not  generally  realised  that  the  blockade, 
supported  by  the  ships  of  the  Grand  Fleet,  was  actually 
enforced  by  merchant  ships  which,  though  under  the 
command  of  naval  officers,  who  had  under  them  a  nucleus 
of  active  service  ratings  and  men  from  the  Royal  Fleet 
Reserve,  were  principally  manned  by  merchant  seamen. 
The  spirit  in  which  these  operations  were  prosecuted  in 
fair  weather  and  in  foul,  and  in  high  latitudes  where  cold 
and  fog  prevail,  constitutes  the  supreme  vindication  of 
the  character  and  seamanlike  qualities  of  the  Merchant 
Navy,  which  was  to  be  re-enforced  before  the  war  came  to 
its  close  by  thousands  of  incidents  of  splendid  and  daring 
heroism  in  face  of  hopeless  odds,  and  noble  self-sacrifice 
in  the  common  cause.  Captain  Charles  Fryatt,  in  par- 
ticular, supplied  his  fellow-seamen  in  these  anxious  months 
with  a  noble  example  of  unflinching  courage  and  un- 
wavering dignity  in  face  of  accusers  who  were  determined, 
as  is  revealed  in  these  pages,  to  encompass  his  death  at  any 

viii  PREFACE 

cost  of  honour — little  thinking  what  influence  the  judicial 
murder  of  this  merchant  captain  would  have  in  crystal- 
lising neutral  opinion  against  Germany.  Captain  Fryatt 
came  to  be  accepted  throughout  the  civilised  world  as  the 
typical  figure  of  the  British  merchant  seamen.  Their 
fellow-countrymen  were  dependent  for  life  on  their  staunch- 
ness and  seamanlike  skill,  and  the  trust  was  gloriously 

Nor  in  reviewing  the  part  which  the  Merchant  Navy 
bore  during  the  war  can  we  ignore  its  services  in  meeting 
the  constant  demands  of  the  Royal  Navy,  or  its  essential 
contribution  in  the  movement  of  troops.  A  fighting  fleet 
without  the  support  of  a  merchant  navy  must  be  demobi- 
lised. Moreover,  an  island  State,  if  it  would  exercise 
military  influence  overseas,  is  dependent  upon  the  efficiency 
of  its  sea  communications,  and  in  the  chapter  which  deals 
with  the  transport  of  the  first  million  troops  posterity 
is  provided  with  a  classic  example  of  how  the  seas  can  be 
bridged  and  increasing  armies  kept  supplied  with  muni- 
tions, food,  and  all  their  various  requirements. 

But  while  the  Merchant  Navy  was  supporting  the 
Royal  Navy,  as  well  as  the  new  armies,  in  near  and  many 
distant  theatres,  it  was  also  fighting  its  own  battles,  almost 
defenceless  though  it  was.  The  extent  to  which  the  sub- 
marine would  be  pressed  into  the  service  of  a  belligerent 
State  had  not  been  foreseen  in  any  country.  The  mere 
fact  that  the  Germans  possessed  only  about  a  score  of 
submarines  when  hostilities  opened,  and  that  at  Inter- 
national Conferences  the  conditions  under  which  warfare 
on  seaborne  commerce  might  be  conducted  had  been 
accepted  by  all  maritime  Powers,  had  contributed  to  a 
feeling  of  security  which  events  were  speedily  to  dissipate. 

The  record  of  the  sufferings  of  the  merchant  seamen, 
as  set  forth  in  official  and  other  documents  which  have 
been  placed  under  contribution  in  the  preparation  of  this 
volume,  constitutes  an  epic  of  the  sea  to  which  history 
provides  no  parallel.  For  many  months  the  men  of  the 
Merchant  Service  were  without  any  semblance  of  defence. 
At  the  very  moment  when  armament  was  required  for  the 
Mercantile  Marine,  the  new  armies  had  to  be  fitted  out, 
while  the  Royal  Navy  itself  also  required  guns  and  other 
equipment.  The  British  Government,  confronted  with  the 
treble  demands  for  guns  and  ammunition  as  well  as  for 


trained  gunners,  was  powerless  to  do  all  that  the  desperate 
situation  of  the  merchant  seamen  suggested  as  desirable. 
But  by  the  opening  of  the  year  1916,  a  considerable  pro- 
portion of  the  larger  and  most  essential  ships  of  the  Mer- 
cantile Marine  had  been  defensively  armed.  The  progress 
in  this  respect  was  not,  as  will  be  seen,  without  its  influence 
on  enemy  policy.  The  success  with  which  defensively 
armed  ships  beat  off  attack,  and  in  many  cases  inflicted 
serious  loss  on  the  enemy,  defeated  the  enemy  tactics,  and 
their  increasing  embarrassment  was  at  last  to  find  expres- 
sion in  the  declaration  from  Berlin  on  February  1st,  1917, 
inaugurating  the  intensive  submarine  campaign  in  defiance 
of  international  law  and  the  code  of  humanity,  as  well  as 
the  pledges  which  had  been  repeatedly  given. 

In  the  varying  circumstances  of  the  twenty  months 
with  which  this  volume  deals,  merchant  seamen  not  only 
maintained  in  efficiency  the  antennae  of  the  blockade 
operations,  while  at  the  same  time  supporting  the  Navy 
and  the  armies  confronting  the  enemy  overseas,  and 
supplying  the  45,000,000  people  of  the  United  Kingdom 
with  food,  but  also  formed  the  backbone  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol.  In  this  new  navy,  amateurs  and  professionals — 
in  fact,  anyone  who  had  acquired  familiarity  with  sea 
conditions — were  mobilised.  The  record  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  is  an  enheartening  revelation  of  the  sea  aptitudes 
of  the  British  people.  Acknowledgment  is  again  made  of 
the  assistance  of  Lieutenant-Commander  E.  Keble  Chat- 
terton,  R.N.V.R.,  in  the  preparation  of  this  portion  of 
the  History. 

The  Admiralty,  the  Board  of  Trade,  and  many  ship- 
owners have  unreservedly  placed  their  records  under  con- 
tribution for  this  History.  Without  their  assistance  it 
would  have  been  impossible  to  present  this  narrative  of 
the  ordeal,  without  its  parallel  in  the  long  and  varied 
records  of  humanity,  to  which  merchant  seamen  were 
submitted  during  the  Great  War. 


Preface        .......       pp.  v-ix 



The  United  States  and  the  sinking  of  the  Lusitania — ^The  brotherhood 
of  the  sea  vindicated — -An  enemy  stratagem — ^The  sinking  of  the  s.s.  Strath- 
naim  with  a  loss  of  twenty-one  lives — ^The  ordeal  of  the  s.s.  Armenian — • 
A  British  master's  humanity  towards  his  dog — The  fate  of  the  s.s.  Anglo- 
Californian — No  mercy  by  the  enemy  for  women  and  children — 248  lives 
lost  in  August  1915 — The  destruction  of  the  liner  Arabic — Experience  of 
the  crew  of  the  s.s.  Diomed — The  liner  Hesperian  sunk — Irritation  in 
America — ^The  enemy's  campaign  on  the  West  Coast  and  in  the  English 
Channel  temporarily  abandoned    ......     pp.  1-41 



Varied  tasks  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol — Submarine  on  passage  to  the 
Mediterranean — Zeppelin  raid  on  Dover— The  trawler  AmadavaVs  inter- 
vention saves  a  merchant  ship — Excursion  steamer's  fight  with  a  sub- 
marine— The  Inverlyoyi's  fight  with  a  Flanders  submarine — Raid  off  the 
Irish  coast — Beaten  by  high  seas — Attack  on  an  oil-tanker      .     pp.  42-49 


THE    fishermen's    ORDEAL 

The  importance  of  the  fishing  industry — Defencelessness  of  the  trawler 
— Wholesale  destruction  of  fishing-craft — Ingenious  disguises  to  trap  the 
enemy — Submarine    versus    submarine — The    destruction    of    U40 — An 
attack  on  fishing-vessels  off  the  Hebrides — A  long  duel — The  misfortunes 
of  U41 — Admiral  Startin's  stratagem — Heavy  losses  of  sailing-ships — -The 
salvage  of  the  s.v.   Kotka — Mine-sweeping  operations^ — Keeping  open  the 
Archangel  route — Success  of  a  Lowestoft  smack — The  Admiralty's  attitude 
to  the  fishing  industry  .......      pp.  50-73 





The  British  Army  dependent  on  merchant  shipping  for  transport  over- 
seas and  on  the  Navy  for  protection — Interdependence  of  naval  and  mili- 
tary poUcy — Previous  transport  movements — Creation  of  the  Expedi- 
tionary Force — Its  quick  mobilisation — Embarrassments  of  a  defensive 
policy         ..........     pp.  74-81 

(a)  The  Expeditionary  Force  dispatched  to  France 

The    cross-Channel    movement — Pre-war    plans — A    change    of    base — 

Navigational      difficulties — Moral      of     a    mistake— Attempt    to    relieve 

Antwerp — Unexpected  demands  on    the    Merchant    Service — Scenes    at 

Ostend — Distress  of  the  refugees  .....     pp.  81-88 

(6)  The  Ejipire  Mobilisation 
Lord  Kitchener's  decision  to  mobilise  trained  troops  in  France — 
Troops  dispatched  from  Egypt,  Malta,  and  Gibraltar — The  New  Zealand 
Expeditionary  Force — Territorial  troops  sent  oversea — First  contingent 
of  the  Australian  Expeditionary  Force — Movement  of  Canada's  Expedi- 
tionary Force — Egyptian  garrison's  voyage  to  England — ^Wessex  and 
Home  Counties  Territorial  Divisions  sent  to  India — British  troops  brought 
home  from  India — Reinforcements  from  New  Zealand  and  Australia — 
Wessex  Reserve  Territorial  Division  moved  to  India.     .  .     pp.  89-96 

(c)  The  Dardanelles  Expedition 
Orders  for  29th  Division  and  Naval  Division  to  sail  for  the  Mediter- 
ranean— Rapid  embarkation  and  errors  in  packing  the  holds  of  transports 
— Nineteen  transports  and  five  store  transports  employed — Concentra'tion 
at  Alexandria — The  2nd  Mounted  Division  moved  to  Egypt — Transports 
for  Australian  and  New  Zealand  troops — Completing  the  First  Million — 
The  Merchant  Service's  record — No  lives  lost  .  .  .     pp.  96-99 



The  blockade  of  Germany  instituted  by  a  squadron  of  old  cruisers — 
Early  capture  of  a  German  vessel — Difficulties  of  examination  of  suspected 
ships  at  sea — Reconstruction  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron — Liners 
requisitioned — Retention  of  Mercantile  Marine  crews — Arduous  and 
perilous  work — -Increasing  danger  from  submarine  and  mines^The 
Viknor  sunk  by  a  mine — Admiralty  appreciation  of  work  of  Northern 
Patrol — Disposal  of  Patrol  in  January  1915 — Difficulties  of  maintaining 
the  Patrol — Sinking  of  the  Bayano  by  a  submarine— Foundering  of  the 
Clan  Macnaughton — Strengthening  of  the  Squadron  and  increased  effi- 
ciency of  the  Patrol — Aid  rendered  by  the  Patrol  to  neutral  shipping — 
Running  the  blockade — A  ruse  to  trap  a  suspected  vessel — New  base  in  the 
Shetland     Islands — Installation    of    the    wireless    direction    finder — The 


India  torpedoed — -The  coal  problem — Seamanship  and  courage  of  prize 
commanders  and  crews — Eventful  voyages — Admiral  Jellicoe's  tribute 
to  the  work  of  the  Patrol — -Action  of  the  Alcantara  and  Andes  with  the 
German  raider  Grief — Curiosities  of  contraband — Change  in  the  command 
of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron — Tribute  to   Rear-Admiral  de   Chair 

pp.  100-156 



The  attack  on  Gallipoli — Activity  of  submarines — ^The  problem  of  the 
Straits  of  Otranto — Mine-sweeping  vessels  for  the  Dardanelles — Trawlers 
at  work  in  the  Straits  of  Gallipoli — Enforced  retirement  under  heavy  fire — 
Another  unsuccessful  attempt — -A  change  in  tactics — Essential  aid  to  the 
army — -The  anti-submarine  patrol — Rescue  of  the  Serbian  army— Sinking 
of  an  Austrian  U-boat — Defending  the  Otranto  Straits — The  situation  in 
the  Mediterranean — Overworked  fishermen  relieved  .     pp.  157-176 



German  successes  in  the  Mediterranean — Concentration  of  the  enemy 
in  southern  waters — Merchant  vessels  svmk  without  warning — Action  of 
the  Woodfield  with  a  submarine — Spirited  fight  by  the  City  of  Marseilles — 
The  enemy's  blows  at  the  communications  of  the  Allies — The  experience 
of  the  Clan  Macleod — Sinking  of  the  Clan  Macfarlane — ^Terrible  experi- 
ences of  the  crew  at  sea — Adrift  for  seven  days.  .  .     pp.  177-203 


THE    SINKING    OF   THE    P.    &    O.    LINER    "  PERSIA  " 

Torpedoed  without  warning — -Breach  of  pledge  to  the  United  States — • 
A  tragic  scene — -334  lives  lost — An  American  passenger's  experiences — 
Another  passenger's  ordeal — Lord  Montagu's  tribute  to  the  crew — ^Thirty 
hours  without  food  or  water     ......     pp.  204-215 



The  sinking  of  the  Coquet — Callous  conduct  of  a  submarine  commander 
— Cast  adrift  200  miles  from  the  nearest  land — "  Nothing  short  of  murder  " 
— Terrible  experiences  at  sea — One  boat  lost — Landing  on  the  desolate 
African  coast — Attacked  by  Bedouins — An  unequal  fight — Survivors  taken 
prisoner — Wanderings  in   captivity — Release  after  nearly  eight  months 

pp.  216-230 



The  policy  of  supplying  guns  and  ammunition  to  merchant  ships  for 
defensive  piu:poses — x4.ttitude  of  the  United  States  Government  to  the 


use  of  American  ports  by  armed  vessels — Proclamation  by  Germany  of 
"  war  zone  " — A  new  problem — The  extension  of  defensive  armament 
policy — Admiralty  instructions  to  masters  of  armed  merchant  ships — ■ 
Status  of  armed  vessels — Gunnery  training  of  merchant  seamen — Right 
of  self-defence — Memoranda  of  the  United  States  respecting  armed  mer- 
chant vessels — Attitude  of  neutral  countries  towards  entry  of  armed 
vessels  into  their  ports    .......     pp.  231-246 


OF    THE    enemy's    MINE-LAYING   ACTIVITY 

Importance  of  Ostend  and  Zeebrugge  to  the  enemy — First  attack  on 
Zeebrugge  by  the  Dover  Patrol — Employment  of  pleastire  steamers  and 
drifters — Second  attack  on  Flemish  coast — Ordeal  of  the  fishermen — Work 
of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol — Laying  and  maintaining  the  mine  barrage  off 
the  Flemish  coast — A  difficult  operation — Destruction  of  submarines 
bj"-  drifters — Gallant  work  of  drifters  in  range  of  enemy  batteries — Destruc- 
tion of  the  armed  yacht  Sanda — Tribute  of  Admiral  Bacon  to  the  courage 
of  officers  and  crews  of  drifters  and  trawlers — -Loss  of  the  Brighton  Queen 
by  mine — Difficulties  of  the  campaign  off  the  Flemish  coast — Co-operation 
of  the  Army  essential  to  success— Enemy's  violation  of  neutral  waters — 
Enemy's  mine-laying — Trawlers  sunk — Mine-field  across  the  Moray  Firth 
— A  widespread  campaign — Trawlers  working  double  "  tides  " — 4,574 
mines  destroyed — Reorganisation  of  the  mine-sweeping  service — Enemy 
activity  overseas — Salving  a  mine    .....     pp.  247-265 



Work  of  the  Royal  Naval  Motor-Boat  Reserve — More  seaworthy  craft 
required — Orders  for  550  motor-launches — Varied  tasks  of  the  new  type 
of  craft — First  effective  barrage — Not  a  complete  success — The  barrage 
abandoned — Assisting  the  French  Navy — Successful  operations  by 
drifters  against  a  submarine — Rescue  of  German  seamen — The  enemy  taken 
by  surprise — U74  destroyed  by  trawlers — Enemy's  dead  set  on  trawlers — 
A  fisherman's  "  battle  " — Mine-laying  submarine  destroyed — An  enemy 
raid  on  the  fishing-fleets  ......     pp.  266-282 



German  destroyers  based  on  Zeebrugge — Raid  on  the  drifters  guarding 
the  Dover  barrage — Attack  on  the  Tenth  Drifter  Division — A  second 
attack — Heavy  British  casualties — Another  attempted  raid — German 
plans  miscarry — Creation  of  the  Anti-Submarine  Department — Difficulties 
in  the  English  Channel — An  armed  trawler  to  the  rescue — A  German 
prisoner's  good  fortune    .......     pp.  283-289 





Confusion  of  policy  in  Germany — Sinking  of  a  merchant  ship  236  miles 
from  the  nearest  land — Brotherhood  of  the  sea — Ship  sunk  at  anchor  by 
a  Zeppelin — The  s.s.  Teutonian  destroyed  off  the  Fastnet — Progress  of  the 
campaign  in  British  waters — Vessels  torpedoed  without  warning — ^The 
escape  of  an  oil-tanker — Value  of  defensive  armament — Loss  of  the 
Minneapolis — The  G  old  mouth''  s  unequal  duel — ^Torpedoing  of  the  Sussex — 
The  German  Government's  pledge    .....     pp.  290-306 



The  ordeal  of  the  s.s.  Brussels — Communications  in  the  North  Sea — 
Shipmaster's  "highly  meritorious  and  courageous  conduct" — Escape  of 
the  Brussels — Captain  Fryatt's  manoeuvre — The  Admiralty's  congratula- 
tions— Capture  of  the  Brussels — Captain  Fryatt  and  the  first  officer  made 
prisoners — Solitary  coniinenient  for  cross-examination — Trial  by  coiort- 
martial — Fruitless  request  for  postponement  from  Berlin — The  case  for 
the  defence — American  intervention — Captain  Fryatt's  heroic  death — 
Neutral  condemnation  of  German  action — Court  of  inquiry  in  Berlin — • 
Captain  Fryatt  condemned  as  "  a  franc-tireur  of  the  seas  " — Lord  Stowell's 
judgment — "  Defence  is  a  natural  right  " — American  rulings,  pp.  307-336 


THE   enemy's    FINAL    PLUNGE 

Division  of  opinion  in  Germany  on  the  use  of  submarines — Temporary 
success  of  the  Imperial  Chancellor — Activities  in  the  Mediterranean — 
A  defenceless  ship,  the  Destro,  saved  by  speed — The  hopeless  duel  of  the 
Roddam — Abandonment  thirty-five  miles  from  land — -Enemy  operations 
in  the  Arctic  Ocean — The  policy  of  spurlos  versenkt — ^The  loss  of  the  Rappa- 
hannock— A  demonstration  off  the  North  American  coast — Sinkings  in 
British  waters — The  problem  of  the  passenger  ship— A  German  com- 
mander's humanity — Over  thirty  hours  in  the  boats — The  fate  of  the  s.s. 
Cabot ia — The  Fabian  under  fire — Prisoners  on  board  a  submarine — ^The 
sink-at-sight  campaign  in  the  Mediterranean — P.  &  O.  liner  Arabia  tor- 
pedoed without  warning — Increasing  disregard  at  sea  of  German  pledges — • 
The  destruction  of  the  City  of  Birmingham — A  Clan  liner's  fight — The 
escape  of  the  s.s.  Palm  Branch — Experiences  of  the  crews  of  German  sub- 
marines— Mounting  losses  of  merchant  ships — Successful  action  of  the 
Caledonia — The  oil-tanker  Conch  set  on  fire  in  the  English  Cliannel — An 
exhibition  of  fine  seamanship — The  eneraj^'s  guile — The  hard  fate  of  the 
Artist — On  the  eve  of  the  intensive  campaign     .  .  .     pp.  337-379 




I.  The  "Mowe" 
False  sense  of  security  at  sea — Warnings  of  the  Admiralty — Escape  of 
the  Mowe  from  Hamburg — First  capture  off  Cape  Finisterre — Utilisation 
of  British  cargo  of  coal — Looting  of  the  Author — The  Elder  Dempster 
steamship  Appam  captured — Gallant  fighting  of  the  Clan  Mactavish — 
Dispatch  of  the  Appam  to  Newport  News  with  prisoners — Action  of  the 
United  States  authorities — Raider's  seizure  of  the  Westbum — Prisoners 
placed  on  board  the  Westburyi  for  purposes  of  release — Arrival  at  Santa 
Cruz — Ship  scuttled  by  Germans — Return  of  the  Mowe  to  Germany — 
Second  cruise  begun — Spirited  action  of  the  Mount  Temple— The 
Yarrowdale  intercepted  and  used  as  an  auxiliary — Crowded  with 
prisoners,  the  Yarrowdale  is  dispatched  to  Swinemiinde — ^The  misfortiines 
of  the  Dramatist — An  Admiralty  collier  svmk — 300  prisoners  placed  on 
board  the  Hudson  Maru  and  landed  at  Pernambuco — Fate  of  the 
Netherby  Hall — Fine  resistance  by  the  Otaki — Posthumous  Victoria 
Cross  awarded  to  Lieutenant  Bisset  Smith,  R.N.R.,  the  master  of  the 
Otaki — Retvirn  of  the  Mowe  to  Germany   ....     pp.  380-415 

n.  The  "Seeadler" 
American  sailing-ship  converted  into  a  raider  and  fitted  with  a  motor — ■ 
Gallant  attempt  of  the  Gladys  Royle  to  escape — -Chase  of  the  Lundy  Island 
— A  British  captain's  experience  on  his  honeymoon — The  Horngarth  under 
fire  for  nearly  an  hom* — British  seamen  prisoners  placed  on  board  a  cap- 
tured French  vessel  and  sent  to  Rio  de  Janeiro — Wreck  of  the  Seeadler  off 
Mopelia  Island        ........     pp.  415-422 

in.  The  "Wolf" 
The  s.s.  Wachenfels,  equipped  with  mines,  guns,  and  torpedoes  and 
provided  with  a  seaplane,  is  sent  to  sea  as  a  raider — Seizure  of  the 
Turritella  and  use  as  an  auxiliary  raider — ^The  captured  ship  intercepted 
by  H.M.S.  Odin  and  then  scuttled  by  the  Germans — The  misfortune  of  the 
Jumna — Master's  diary  of  life  on  board  the  raider — -Prisoners'  uncomfort- 
able quarters — Extensive  mine-laying  by  the  Wolf— A.  forttmate  meeting 
— The  Wairuna  chased  by  the  raider's  seaplane  and  captured — Mine-laying 
in  New  Zealand  waters— -The  raider  in  hiding  with  her  latest  prize — A 
narrow  escape — The  Spanish  steamer  Igotz  Mendi  seized  and  used  as  a 
prison  ship — Homeward  journey  of  the  Wolf  in  company  with  the  Igotz 
Mendi — Stranding  of  the  Igotz  Mendi — Merchant  ships  damaged  or  sunk 
by  the  Wolf's  mine-fields  ......     pp.  422-435 

APPENDIX  A.     Instructions  to  Merchant  Captains  .      pp.  436-440 

„  B.     Interpretation    of    same    by  German 

Court  of  Inquiry  .  .  .     p.  441 

,,  C.     Analysis  of  Vessels  Intercepted        .     pp.  442-443 

INDEX pp.  444-464 


The  Loss  of  a  British  Merchant  Ship 
An  Armed  Drifter    ..... 

On  Watch  in  the  Arctic  .... 

A  Boarding  Boat  on  Duty 
On    the    Forecastle    of    an  Armed    Merchant 
Cruiser       ...... 

Left  in  an  Open  Boat       .... 

Drifters  Hoisting  in  a  Torpedo 
Armed  Trawlers  in  the  North  Sea 
Releasing  a  Depth  Charge  from  a  Drifter 
Vessel  Hit  by  a  German  Submarine 
Sunk  without  Warning      .... 

The  Sinking  of  the  "Georgic" 






The  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  in  the  Autumn 
of  1915         ...... 

The  Mine  Peril  in  Home  Waters 
Statistical  Diagram  of  Blockade  Operations 

ING  OF  THE  Blockade  in  1915  . 


At  end  c] 

The    Tenth    Cruiser    Squadron,    the    Work-  \''°t"'l 

'  '  with  Ap- 


n— 2 






The  sinking  of  the  Lusitania,  in  circumstances  which  have 
already  been  described,  involving  the  loss  of  1,198  lives, 
focused  the  attention  of  the  world  upon  the  character  of 
the  war  upon  commerce  which  the  enemy  was  prosecuting, 
and  emphasised  the  fundamental  characteristics  which 
differentiated  it  from  commerce  destruction  as  practised 
by  belligerents  in  former  wars.  The  United  States  Govern- 
ment, already  disturbed  by  the  destruction  of  the  Falaba 
and  other  ships  conveying  American  citizens,  could  not 
avoid  taking  official  notice  of  the  sinking  of  a  great  liner 
which  had  left  one  of  its  ports,  carrying  a  large  number 
of  Americans,  with  a  guarantee  that  it  was  a  peaceful 
vessel  of  commerce.  Within  less  than  a  week  of  the 
disaster,  the  State  Department  at  Washington  had  drafted 
and  forwarded  to  Berlin  an  explicit  protest.  In  this 
Note,  dated  May  13th,  1915,  the  United  States  Government 
stated  that 

"  It  assumes  .  .  .  that  the  Imperial  Government  accept, 
as  of  course,  the  rule  that  the  lives  of  non-combatants, 
whether  they  be  of  neutral  citizenship  or  citizens  of  one 
of  the  nations  at  war,  cannot  lawfully  or  rightly  be  put 
in  jeopardy  by  the  capture  or  destruction  of  an  unarmed 
merchantman,  and  recognise  also,  as  all  other  nations  do, 
the  obligation  to  take  the  usual  precautions  of  visit  and 
search  to  ascertain  whether  a  suspected  merchantman  is 
in  fact  of  belligerent  nationality,  or  is  in  fact  carrying 
contraband  of  war  under  a  neutral  flag," 

The  attention  of  the  Imperial  Government  was  called 
with   the    utmost    earnestness    to    the    fact    that    "the 

2  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

objection  to  their  present  method  of  attack  against 
the  trade  of  their  enemies  Hes  in  the  practical  impos- 
sibihty  of  employing  submarines  in  the  destruction  of 
commerce  without  disregarding  those  rules  of  fairness, 
reason,  justice,  and  humanity,  which  all  modern  opinion 
regards  as  imperative.  It  is  practically  impossible  for 
the  officers  of  a  submarine  to  visit  a  merchantman  at 
sea  and  examine  her  papers  and  cargo.  It  is  practically 
impossible  for  them  to  make  a  prize  of  her,  and,  if  they 
cannot  put  a  prize  crew  on  board  of  her,  they  cannot  sink 
her  without  leaving  her  crew  and  all  on  board  of  her  to  the 
mercy  of  the  sea  in  her  small  boats." 

In  some  instances,  it  was  added,  "  time  enough  for  even 
that  poor  measure  of  safety  was  not  given,"  and  it  was 
finally  declared  that  it  was  manifest  that  "  submarines 
cannot  be  used  against  merchantmen,  as  the  last  few 
weeks  have  shown,  without  an  inevitable  violation  of 
many  sacred  principles  of  justice  and  humanity."  This 
Note  was  something  more  than  a  mere  assertion  of  the 
right  of  American  citizens  to  use  the  seas  :  it  constituted 
an  indictment  of  the  principles  governing  the  submarine 
war,  reminding  the  nations  of  the  world,  whether  belli- 
gerent or  neutral,  of  the  unprecedented  character  of  the 
ordeal  to  which  British  merchant  seamen  in  particular 
were  being  exposed. 

In  contrast  with  the  savagery  which  had  marked  the 
destruction  of  the  Lusitania,  an  example  of  the  sentiments 
of  brotherhood  which  continued  to  move  the  seamen  of 
the  old  maritime  races  to  assist  comrades  in  distress, 
irrespective  of  race,  language,  or  creed,  was  furnished  by 
the  crew  of  a  Norwegian  steamer  less  than  a  fortnight  after 
the  sinking  of  the  Cunard  liner.  The  steamer  Drumcree 
(4,052  tons)  was  passing  Trevose  Head  on  May  18th  when 
a  violent  explosion  occurred.  Though  a  double  watch 
on  the  bridge  had  been  maintained  since  leaving  port, 
no  one  had  seen  a  submarine,  but  the  wake  of  a  torpedo 
had  been  observed  about  100  yards  away  off  on  the  star- 
board beam.  Time  did  not  permit  of  the  helm  being  used 
successfully,  and  the  vessel  was  struck  near  the  cross 
bunker.  She  was  wrecked  from  practically  No.  2  hold 
to  the  engine-room  ;  she  had  gaping  holes  in  her  side  and 
deck  ;  the  deck-plates  were  buckled  and  the  beams  twisted 

CH.  ij  LOSS   OF   THE   "  DRUMCREE  "  3 

into  strange  shapes.  The  water  poured  into  the  hold,  as 
well  as  into  the  engine-  and  boiler-rooms.  The  wireless-room 
and  its  installations  were  reduced  to  ruins,  but  the  operator, 
though  he  had  been  injured,  remained  at  his  post  until 
the  master  (Mr.  A.  Hodgson),  having  satisfied  himself 
that  it  was  impossible  to  make  a  call  for  assistance,  sent 
him  to  his  boat.  Fortunately  all  the  boats  had  been  swung 
out  when  the  Drumcree  left  Barry  Dock,  and  as  the  ship 
lost  way  they  were  lowered  and  quickly  manned  and  then 
stood  by. 

In  the  meantime  Captain  Hodgson,  in  company  with 
the  chief  officer,  had  made  a  hasty  survey  and  had 
satisfied  himself  that  there  was  still  a  chance  of  saving 
the  ship,  although  the  water  had  risen  to  sea  level 
in  the  injured  compartments.  In  spite  of  the  warning 
signal  which  Captain  Hodgson  had  hoisted,  several  vessels, 
regardless  of  danger  to  themselves,  closed  on  the  Drumcree. 
The  Norwegian  steamer  Ponto  was  hailed  by  Captain 
Hodgson,  and  the  master  was  told  that  the  Drumcree  was 
in  no  immediate  danger  of  foundering  in  the  moderate 
weather  which  then  prevailed.  He  was  asked  to  give 
a  tow  in  the  direction  of  Cardiff,  keeping  close  to  the  land 
on  the  English  side  of  the  Channel.  Though  the  neutral 
master  cannot  have  been  unconscious  of  the  peril  in  which 
he  stood,  he  readily  agreed  to  render  this  service  and 
brought  his  ship  smartly  into  position  under  the  bow  of  the 
Drumcree.  With  the  help  of  the  two  crews,  hawsers  were 
made  secure,  and  then  the  Ponto,  having  taken  sixteen  of 
the  crew  of  the  Drumcree  out  of  one  of  the  lifeboats,  began 
to  tow  the  damaged  steamer.  That  the  position  of  the 
Ponto  was  an  unenviable  one  was  shown  shortly  afterwards 
when  a  second  attack  was  made  on  the  crippled  ship, 
a  torpedo  striking  her  farther  aft  than  on  the  first  occasion. 
Another  explosion  occurred,  throwing  the  hatch  coverings 
of  No.  3  hold  and  other  wreckage  into  the  air,  whilst 
a  column  of  water  rose  as  high  as  the  mast.  The  ship 
began  to  settle  by  the  stern  with  a  list  to  starboard,  and 
it  looked  as  though  she  would  sink  at  once.  The  Ponto 
had  no  recourse  but  to  free  herself  from  her  dangerous 
companion.  Captain  Hodgson  ordered  the  remainder  of 
the  officers  and  men  of  the  Drumcree  into  the  lifeboat 
which  was  lying  alongside.  A  hasty  inspection  of  the 
after  part  of  the  vessel  showed  that  the  water  was  still 

4  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH   WATERS        [ch.  i 

rising,  so  at  last  Captain  Hodgson  joined  his  men,  intending 
to  remain  in  the  vicinity  until  his  vessel  disappeared. 

"  The  submarine,  however,  now  appeared,  showing  only 
the  periscope,  close  to  the  stern  of  the  ship  and  man- 
oeuvred," as  Captain  Hodgson  afterwards  recorded,  "  as 
if  bent  on  further  mischief.  We  therefore  pulled  to  the 
Ponto,  which  was  standing  by,  and  relieved  our  boat  of 
most  of  its  load.  Then,  as  the  captain  of  the  Ponto  was 
naturally  anxious  about  the  safety  of  his  own  ship,  some 
of  the  officers  and  engineers  volunteered  to  remain  by 
the  ship  [the  Drumcree]  in  the  boat  with  me  until  she  should 
sink  or  so  that  we  might  at  least  (in  the  unlikely  event  of 
her  remaining  afloat)  hoist  a  night  warning  signal.  The 
Ponto's  people,  however,  warned  me  that  the  submarine 
was  again  in  sight  close  to  us,  and  I  therefore  felt  compelled 
to  abandon  her  and  boarded  the  Ponto  with  my  officers 
at  5  p.m." 

The  signal  station  at  Lundy  was  told  of  the  position 
of  the  derelict,  since  she  might  become  a  danger  to  navi- 
gation in  the  darkness.  In  recounting  the  circumstances 
in  which  his  ship  was  lost,  Captain  Hodgson  remarked 
that  "  the  captain  of  the  Ponto  is,  in  my  opinion,  deserving 
of  very  great  credit  for  the  resolute  manner  in  which  he 
stood  by  us,  at  no  small  risk  to  himself  and  his  own  crew, 
as  also  for  the  courtesy  and  consideration  with  which  he 
received  us  on  board  and  provided  for  our  wants,  which 
has  been  deeply  appreciated  by  us  all."  Though  his  ship 
had  gone  down,  the  master  had  the  satisfaction  of  testifying 
that  his  crew  had  behaved  well  and  had  carried  out  orders 
without  confusion,  although  they  were  new  to  the  vessel 
and  had  had  but  one  opportunity  of  carrying  out  boat 
drill.  "  The  officers  and  men,"  he  added,  "  I  will  not 
attempt  to  praise  ;  they  worked  with  me  to  the  last 
in  endeavouring  to  bring  the  ship  to  port  and  were  as 
reluctant  as  I  to  abandon  her." 

Though  the  submarine  war  was  still  in  its  early  stage, 
merchant  seamen  were  learning  that  the  enemy  was  adopt- 
ing every  expedient  of  which  he  could  think  to  lure  them 
to  destruction.  On  the  last  day  of  May,  when  the  Royal 
Mail  Steam  Packet  Company's  ship  Z)emerara  (11,484  tons), 
on  passage  from  Liverpool  to  Lisbon,  was  off  the  south 


coast  of  Ireland,  what  appeared  to  be  a  mine  was  observed 
floating  on  the  surface  of  the  water.     The  master  [Lieu- 
tenant G,  S.  Gillard,  R.N.R.   (retired)],  recognising  that 
a  mine  was  a  danger  to  navigation,  approached  to  within 
200  yards.     Rifle  fire  was  then  directed  on  the  supposed 
mine,  which  was  hit  several  times.     The  bullets  of  the 
•45   Martini   appeared  to   produce   no   effect,   so   Captain 
Gillard    decided    to    use    his    4-7-inch    gun.       One    shell 
fell  close  to  the  supposed  mine  but  failed  to  detonate  it. 
An  hour   after  this  attempt  had  been  made  to  destroy 
what  was  thought  to  be  a  danger  to  shipping,  the  periscope 
of  a  submarine  was  seen  on  the  starboard  quarter.     The 
enemy  vessel  at  once  pursued  the  British  ship,  firing  from 
time  to  time.     The  Demerara  put  on  her  best  speed  and 
the  enemy's  fire  was  returned  at  1,000  yards,  the  British 
red    ensign    having   been    hoisted.     The    submarine    then 
dived.     The  Demerara  was  manoeuvred  with  skill  so  as 
to  keep  the  submarine  on  the  quarter  between  the  wake 
and  bow  waves.     Periodically  the  submarine  showed  her 
periscope,  and  each  time  fire  was  opened  by  the  British 
ship.     In  all  thirteen  rounds  were  discharged.     The  thir- 
teenth was  a  lucky  shot.     It  appeared  to  strike  the  top 
of  the  periscope.     As  it  did  not  ricochet,  the  captain  of 
the  Demerara  assumed  that  the  periscope  had  been  hit. 
Whether  that  was  the  case  or  not,  at  any  rate  nothing 
further  was   seen  of  the   submarine.     Events   supported 
the  conjecture  that  the  mine  which  the  Demerara  had  tried 
to  destroy  was  merely  a  decoy. 

The  incident  had  a  curious  sequel.  On  September  6th 
the  German  Legation  at  Buenos  Aires  delivered  a  note 
verbale  to  the  Argentine  Minister  for  Foreign  Affairs  to 
the  effect  that 

"  The  steamer  of  the  Royal  Mail  Steam  Packet  Company 
Demerara,  which  will  arrive  here  probably  to-morrow,  the 
7th,  was  guilty  of  attacking  the  armed  forces  of  His 
Majesty  the  German  Emperor.  It  is  thus  demonstrated 
that  her  armament  was  not  mounted  for  purposes  of 
defence.  For  this  reason  the  Imperial  Legation  begs  the 
Ministry  of  Foreign  Affairs  of  the  Republic  to  be  good 
enough  to  take  the  requisite  steps  in  order  that  the  com- 
petent authorities  shall  apply  the  treatment  of  war  vessels, 
from  every  point  of  view,  to  the  said  vessel  on  her  arrival." 

6  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH   WATERS        [ch.  i 

The  British  Government  was  able  to  show  that  the 
British  vessel  had  employed  its  guns  merely  for  the  purpose 
of  offering  defence  against  an  attack  carried  out,  moreover, 
under  cover  of  a  decoy  mine.  Captain  Gillard  was  men- 
tioned in  despatches  in  recognition  of  the  skilful  manner 
in  which  he  had  saved  his  vessel. 

When  May  closed  the  record  showed  that  in  that  month 
nineteen  ships,  of  84,025  tons,  had  been  sunk.  In  the 
amount  of  tonnage  destroyed,  as  well  as  in  the  number 
of  men,  women,  and  children  killed,  this  month  was  the 
worst  which  had  yet  been  experienced,  and  in  no  corre- 
sponding period  during  the  remainder  of  the  war  did 
the  destruction  of  human  life  reach  so  high  a  figure.  In 
addition  to  the  shipping  destroyed,  nineteen  vessels,  of 
117,591  tons,  were  damaged  or  molested  by  enemy  sub- 
marines. No  losses  were  sustained  owing  to  the  action  of 
mines  or  aircraft. 

During  the  early  months  of  the  summer  events  were 
to  show  that  the  protest  of  the  United  States  Government, 
the  sense  of  brotherhood  exhibited  by  neutral  seamen, 
and  the  pluck,  skill,  and  endurance  of  British  officers  and 
men  were  producing  no  effect  on  the  official  mind  of  Ger- 
many. It  was  still  believed  in  Berlin  that  the  submarine 
would  prove  the  instrument  of  speedy  victory,  and  then 
Germany  would  be  free  to  deal  with  neutrals,  and  in  parti- 
cular with  the  United  States.  So  the  campaign  against 
merchant  shipping  was  pursued  with  a  relentless  insen- 
sibility to  all  human  instincts.  On  the  opening  day  of 
June  eight  men  were  killed  when  the  Saidieh  (3,803  tons) 
was  sunk.  On  June  9th  the  Lady  Salisbury  (1,446  tons) 
went  down,  three  men  losing  their  lives,  and  six  days  later 
the  master  of  the  Strathnairn  (4,336  tons),  as  well  as 
twenty  of  his  companions,  was  drowned.  The  month 
closed  with  the  sinking  of  the  Armenian  (8,825  tons)  with 
the  loss  of  twenty-nine  lives,  of  the  Scottish  Monarch 
(5,043  tons)  with  a  loss  of  fifteen  lives,  and  of  the  Lomas 
(3,048  tons)  with  the  loss  of  one  life.  The  blowing  up  of 
the  Am  dale  (3,583  tons)  by  a  mine  at  the  entrance  to  the 
White  Sea,  when  three  were  killed,  raised  the  death  roll 
for  the  month  of  June  to  eighty-one. 

Ample  evidence  was  forthcoming  that  the  Germans, 
in  spite  of  their  protestations,  had  no  intention  of 
abandoning    the    practice    of    torpedoing    ships    without 

CH.  I]    THE   "  SAIDIEH  "  AND  "  STRATHNAIRN  "        7 

warning.  The  Saidieh  was  on  her  way  from  Alexandria 
to  Hull  when  she  met  her  fate  near  the  Elbow  Buoy  in 
the  North  Sea  at  2  p.m.  on  June  2nd.  She  was  unarmed, 
and  had  almost  completed  her  voyage  when  a  shock  was 
felt  from  stem  to  stern  and  volumes  of  water  rose  on  the 
starboard  side.  The  chief  mate  (Mr.  Daniel  Jenkins), 
standing  on  the  bridge  with  the  Trinity  pilot,  who  had 
been  taken  aboard  at  Deal,  at  once  sounded  the  whistle 
and  ordered  all  hands  to  get  ready  to  lower  the  boats. 
Two  minutes  previously  the  master  (Mr.  J.  R.  Ryall)  had 
gone  into  his  cabin.  He  rushed  to  the  deck  when  he  felt 
the  concussion.  The  ship  was  rapidly  sinking,  and  Mdthin 
six  minutes  had  disappeared  beneath  the  waters.  In 
addition  to  her  crew  of  forty-one  officers  and  men,  she 
had  on  board  eight  distressed  seamen.  When  the  boats 
were  swung  out,  six  firemen  and  an  A.B.  were  reported 
as  missing,  and  the  presumption  was  that  they  had  been 
killed  by  the  explosion.  While  No.  3  boat,  which  con- 
tained several  members  of  the  crew  and  the  stewardess, 
was  being  lowered  an  accident  occurred.  One  of  the  falls 
had  been  cut  by  a  Greek  seaman,  the  boat  capsized,  and 
the  occupants  were  thrown  into  the  water.  They  were 
fortunately  rescued,  patrol-vessels  having  quickly  come 
to  the  scene.  While  these  events  were  occurring,  the 
chief  mate  noticed  a  submarine's  periscope  50  or  100 
yards  distant,  but  the  enemy  had  no  compassion  on  the 
unfortunate  mariners  and  their  companions.  After  being 
rescued,  the  stewardess  died  from  the  shock  she  had 
sustained.  The  survivors  and  the  body  of  the  dead 
stewardess  were  landed  at  Chatham. 

The  sinking  of  the  Straihnairn  caused  heavier  casualties 
than  had  occurred  in  any  ordinary  trading-vessel  since 
the  Tangistan  went  down  on  March  9th.  The  Straihnairn 
(master,  Mr.  John  Browne)  was  bound  from  Penarth  to 
Archangel  with  coal.  At  9.30  p.m.  on  June  15th,  when 
the  vessel  was  twenty-five  miles  N,  by  E.  from  Bishop  and 
Clerks,  the  second  mate  (Mr.  J.  H.  Wood),  who  was  asleep 
in  his  cabin,  after  being  relieved  by  the  chief  officer,  was 
thrown  out  of  his  bunk  by  an  explosion.  When  he 
reached  the  deck  he  noticed  that,  although  way  was  still 
on  the  ship,  a  lifeboat  and  a  gig  had  been  lowered  and  had 
been  smashed  against  the  vessel's  side.  Captain  Browne 
came  to  the  conclusion  that  the  vessel  was  sinking  and 

8  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

slipped  down  a  lifeline  into  a  lifeboat  which  had  been 
lowered  with  a  number  of  Chinese  seamen  in  it.  Owing  to 
the  boat's  painter  being  cut  before  the  boat  had  been 
released  from  the  dropping  gear,  it  also  collided  with  the 
vessel's  side  and  all  the  occupants  were  washed  out  of  it. 
Realising  the  error  which  had  been  made  in  lowering  the 
boats  too  soon,  Mr,  Wood  waited  until  the  ship  was  stopped 
before  launching  the  remaining  gig.  Fortunately  the 
Strathnairn,  though  a  little  deeper  in  the  water,  had  taken 
only  a  slight  list  to  port,  and  the  gig  was  successfully 
launched  with  the  assistance  of  the  remaining  ten  China- 
men on  board.  Mr.  Wood  allowed  the  gig  to  drift  astern 
in  the  hope  of  picking  up  the  captain,  but  was  disappointed. 

At  this  moment  he  saw  the  periscope  of  a  submarine  mov- 
ing round  the  stern  of  the  vessel,  taking  no  interest  in  the 
plight  of  the  unhappy  survivors.  For  some  time  the  gig 
remained  near  the  doomed  ship,  and  then  Mr.  Wood  decided 
to  row  to  the  eastward.  Early  on  the  following  morning, 
after  a  night  of  many  vicissitudes,  he  and  his  companions 
were  picked  up  by  the  Amanda  of  Padstow,  and  later  in 
the  day  reached  Milford  Haven.  The  experience  of  the 
first  engineer  (Mr.  J.  C.  Smith)  and  the  Chinese  carpenter 
was  less  happy.  The  former  jumped  overboard  with  the 
Chinaman  and  throughout  the  night  the  two  men,  white 
man  and  yellow  man,  clung  for  life  to  a  capsized  boat. 
Not  until  6.30  on  the  following  morning,  after  nine  hours' 
physical  and  mental  agony,  were  they  picked  up  by  the 
Ahhotsford  of  Glasgov/  and  landed  at  Swansea. 

These  two  vessels,  together  with  the  Inkum  (4,747  tons), 
the  Strathcarron  (4,374  tons),  the  Lady  Salisbury  (1,446 
tons),  the  Erna  Boldt  (1,731  tons),  the  Leuctra  (3,027  tons), 
the  Dulcie  (2,033  tons),  the  Tunisiana  (4,220  tons),  and  the 
Dumfriesshire  (2,622  tons),  were  all  torpedoed  without 
warning.  The  Armenia?!,  the  Scottish  Monarch,  and  the 
Lomas  were,  however,  captured  before  being  sunk.  Never- 
theless the  loss  of  life  was  heavy.  The  first-named  vessel, 
of  the  Leyland  Line,  was  on  voyage  from  Newport  News 
to  Avonmouth  with  1,422  mules  for  H.M.  Government. 
Shortly  after  noon  on  June  28th,  she  was  steering  to  pass 
ten  miles  north  of  Lundy  Island  when  she  received  a  wire- 
less message  from  Crookhaven  stating  that  submarines 
were  active  south  of  the  Smalls.  The  master  (Mr.  James 
Irickey)  determined  to  make  for  Trevose  Head.     At  6.40 

CH.  i]      THE    "  ARMENIAN'S  "    GALLANT   FIGHT         9 

p.m.,  when  twenty  miles  west  of  this  point,  a  submarine 
was  sighted  on  the  port  bow,  about  three  miles  away, 
steaming  towards  the  Armenian  on  the  surface.  As  the 
British  ship,  though  unarmed,  had  a  speed  of  14|  knots, 
Captain  Irickey  decided  to  make  a  fight  for  it. 

He  accordingly  headed  for  the  submarine  with  the  in- 
tention of  ramming  her.  The  enemy,  however,  opened 
fire  and  Captain  Irickey  turned  his  ship  stern  on  to  the 
submarine  so  as  to  decrease  the  target.  Several  shots  fell 
ahead  and  astern  of  the  merchantman  until  the  range  was 
found,  when  the  wireless  telegraph  house  was  wrecked.  An- 
other shell  entered  the  firehold  and  started  a  fire.  Captain 
Irickey  with  his  officers  and  men  set  to  work  to  subdue  the 
flames,  but  other  fires  weve  caused  by  subsequent  shells. 
One  struck  the  steering  gear,  putting  it  out  of  action,  and 
another  fell  on  the  engine-room  hatch,  sending  debris  on 
to  the  engines,  which  were,  however,  kept  at  full  speed. 
During  this  phase  of  the  one-sided  action  twelve  of  the 
crew  were  killed  and  others  injured.  Captain  Irickey  still 
held  on  to  his  course. 

When  the  unequal  ordeal  had  lasted  nearly  an  hour, 
the  funnel  was  struck,  the  shell  passing  down  into  the 
body  of  the  ship.     The  stokehold  was   put  in  darkness 
and  the  boilers  were  so  damaged  that  steam  could  not  be 
maintained.     The  master  then  realised  that  escape  was 
impossible.     He  hoisted  the  white  flag  and  blew  the  ship's 
whistle  in  token  of  surrender,   preparations  being  made 
simultaneously  to  abandon  ship.     Whether  the  submarine 
failed  to  notice  the  British  signals  or  was  determined  to 
punish  to  the  uttermost  so  persistent  an  opponent  will 
never  be  known.     At  any  rate  the  shells  continued  to  fall 
on   the   crippled   vessel,    damaging   the   boats'   falls    and 
causing  some  of  the  boats  to  hang  by  one  fall  only,  with  the 
result  that  many  men  were  thrown  into  the  water.     Even- 
tually all  the  surviving  members  of  the  crew  were  able  to 
get  away.     The  captain,  satisfied  that  no  one  was  on  board, 
himself  left.     But  shortly  afterwards  an  improvised  raft 
was  seen  leaving  the  Armenian  with  the  chief  engineer, 
the  veterinary  surgeon,  and  the  purser  ;    they  also  were 
rescued.     When  all  six  boats  were  clear  of  the  ship,  the 
submarine  approached  and,  getting  into  position  on  the 
port  quarter,  fired  a  torpedo  into  the  Armenian.     Under 
Captain  Irickey's  orders,  the  hatches  of  the  lower  hold  had 

10  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

previously  been  battened  down,  the  ballast  tanks  pumped 
out,  and  the  refrigerator  boxes  secured,  thus  giving  addi- 
tional buoyancy  to  the  vessel.  Consequently  the  first 
torpedo  left  the  Armenian  still  afloat  and  another  was 
discharged,  this  time  into  the  stokehold,  with  the  result 
that  the  ship  forthwith  began  to  sink  rapidly.  Owing  to 
the  action  of  the  captain,  the  enemy  had  to  expend  about 
fifty  shells,  as  well  as  two  torpedoes.  As  she  sank  rapidly 
the  Armenian,  with  a  length  of  530  feet,  presented  a  re- 
markable spectacle  ;  half  her  length  was  reared  into  the 

The  ship  having  been  dispatched,  the  submarine — 
U38 — dived  and  disappeared.  The  commander  showed, 
however,  a  measure  of  humanity  ;  before  diving  he  rescued 
three  or  four  men  from  the  water.  Captain  Irickey's  boat 
being  the  only  one  with  a  compass,  the  other  boats  Avere 
collected  and  connected  astern.  A  course  was  then  made 
for  land  under  sail.  At  7  o'clock  the  following  morning  the 
Belgian  steam  trawler  President  Stein  took  the  men  on 
board  and  at  noon  turned  them  over  to  the  destroyers 
Mansfield  and  Milne,  which  landed  them  at  Avonmouth 
that  afternoon.  The  unequal  action  resulted  in  the  loss 
of  twenty-nine  lives,  including  the  fourth  engineer  and 
twenty  American  cattle  attendants.  The  Admiralty 
marked  their  appreciation  of  the  master's  efforts  to  save 
his  ship  and  its  valuable  cargo  by  conferring  upon  him 
the  Distinguished  Service  Cross.  The  quartermaster, 
W.  A.  Goss,  and  two  firemen,  T.  Davies  and  E.  G.  Talbot, 
received  the  D.S.M.,  and  the  second  officer,  Mr.  H.  O. 
Davies,  and  the  chief  engineer,  Mr.  J.  Crighton,  obtained 

The  Scottish  Monarch  was  a  slower  ship  than  the  Arme- 
nian, but  nevertheless  the  master  (Mr.  R.  H.  Potter)  made 
a  determined  effort  to  get  away  from  the  enemy.  The 
vessel  was  forty  miles  south  of  Ballycottin  Light,  County 
Cork,  when  the  third  officer  sighted  two  submarines 
about  two  miles  off  on  the  starboard  beam.  They  were 
flying  the  German  ensign.  Captain  Potter  immediately 
went  on  the  bridge  and  starboarded  his  helm  so  as  to  bring 
the  submarines  astern  of  him.  He  proceeded  to  steer  a 
zigzag  course  at  about  11|  knots.  One  of  the  submarines 
then  disappeared,  but  the  other  quickly  overhauled  the 
Scottish  Monarch  and  when  about  a  mile  away  opened  fire. 

CH.  i]  THE    "  SCOTTISH   MONARCH  "    TORPEDOED  11 

The  first  shell  did  little  damage,  but  three  later  ones,  fired 
at  close  quarters,  made  a  hole  in  the  port  side  of  the  vessel. 
There  was  nothing  for  it  but  to  stop  the  engines  and  lower 
the  boats,  into  which  the  crew  made  their  escape.  Captain 
Potter,  however,  remained  on  the  bridge  while  the  sub- 
marine continued  firing  at  intervals,  holding  the  starboard 
side.  When  the  decks  of  the  Scottish  Monarch  were 
awash,  the  master  got  into  his  own  boat  during  an  interval 
in  the  attack,  and  three-quarters  of  an  hour  later  the 
Scottish  Monarch  sank  out  of  sight.  Captain  Potter  and 
nineteen  of  the  crew  were  picked  up  by  the  Miami  of 
Glasgow,  about  thirty  miles  south  of  Hook  Point,  early 
on  the  following  morning  and  landed  the  same  day. 

The  submarine's  attack  had  caused  no  casualties,  but  in 
leaving  all  these  men  afloat  far  from  land  the  enemy  became 
responsible  for  the  loss  of  fifteen  lives.  The  sea  was 
choppy  and  the  two  boats  which  were  still  afloat 
remained  in  company  for  some  time,  but  soon  the  one 
under  the  first  mate  (Mr.  J.  Gabrielsen)  capsized.  All 
the  hands  managed  to  regain  the  boat,  but  she  was  full 
of  water  and  the  tanks  were  adrift  on  the  starboard  side. 
In  the  meantime  sight  had  been  lost  of  the  master's  boat. 
The  unfortunate  men,  with  the  first  mate,  were  left  without 
hope  of  succour  in  their  waterlogged  craft.  Before  mid- 
night she  had  capsized  three  times  more  and  only  four 
men  were  left — the  first  mate,  the  carpenter  (Michael  App- 
son),  and  two  seamen,  all  of  them  with  lifebelts  on.  On 
the  following  morning  a  vessel  was  seen,  and  the  carpenter 
hoisted  a  handkerchief  on  a  stick  hoping  to  attract  attention. 
Although  the  strange  ship  passed  close  by  the  boat,  the 
pitiful  signal  of  distress  was  evidently  not  seen.  Then 
the  two  seamen  became  exhausted  and  were  washed  over- 
board. Vessels  appeared  on  the  horizon  and  disappeared, 
since  there  was  no  means  of  attracting  their  attention. 
About  five  o'clock  that  afternoon,  after  weary  hours  of 
hope  unfulfilled,  the  first  mate,  who  was  sitting  aft,  dropped 
with  exhaustion  into  the  water  which  filled  the  boat,  and 
died.  The  Scottish  Monarch  having  gone  down  on  the 
evening  of  June  29th,  it  was  not  until  eight  o'clock  on  the 
evening  of  July  1st  that  the  carpenter,  the  sole  survivor 
of  the  boatload,  was  picked  up  by  a  fishing-boat  and  landed 
on  the  following  afternoon  at  St.  Ives,  where  the  body  of 
the  first  mate   was   quietly  carried   ashore.     Among  the 

12  SUBIVIARINES    IN    BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

flotsam  and  jetsam  washed  up  at  He  de  Batz  nearly  a 
fortnight  later  was  a  cylindrical  lifebuoy  bearing  the  name 
of  the  sunken  ship,  all  that  remained  of  the  Scottish  Monarch 
of  Glasgow. 

The  experience  of  the  Lomas,  to  the  sinking  of  which 
reference  has  been  made,  was  happily  less  tragic.  All 
went  well  on  her  voyage  from  Buenos  Aires  to  Belfast 
until  June  30th,  when  the  vessel  was  some  distance  off 
Bishop  Rock.  The  master  (Mr.  Phillip  Evans)  was  on  the 
bridge  when,  in  the  clear  morning  light,  he  saw  a  sub- 
marine about  two  miles  astern  of  him  well  exposed  on  the 
surface.  He  at  once  gave  orders  for  all  possible  speed 
and  steered  so  as  to  keep  the  enemy  ship  astern  of  him. 
The  submarine  gave  chase,  and  when  she  had  drawn  within 
two  miles  of  the  Lomas  began  firing. 

Captain  Evans  still  held  on  his  course,  counting 
the  shells  as  they  fell.  Seventeen  shells  were  fired  and 
nine  of  them  hit  the  vessel,  the  second  mate  being 
killed.  The  Lomas  was  only  making  about  7^  knots, 
so,  as  escape  was  impossible,  the  master  stopped  the 
ship  after  an  ordeal  which  had  lasted  an  hour  and  a 
half.  The  submarine  was  then  almost  alongside  the 
vessel.  When  the  crew  had  left  the  ship  in  the  boats, 
the  enemy  vessel  set  to  work  to  sink  her  by  gunfire 
and  torpedo.  As  the  Lomas  began  to  settle  down,  the 
submarine  commander  hailed  the  lifeboats  to  put  the 
inquiries  which,  according  to  established  custom,  should 
have  preceded  offensive  action.  What  was  the  name  of 
the  vessel  and  her  nationality,  her  tonnage  and  cargo ; 
where  did  she  come  from  and  where  was  she  bound  ? 
All  these  questions  having  been  answered,  and  the  Lomas 
having  gone  down,  the  submarine  disappeared.  One  man 
had  been  killed  during  the  stern  chase,  but  the  master  and 
the  rest  of  the  crew  were  fortunate  in  being  picked  up 
within  an  hour  and  landed  at  Milford  Haven. 

These  were  a  few  of  the  tragic  incidents  which  marked 
the  progress  of  the  submarine  campaign  during  the  month 
following  upon  the  destruction  of  the  Lusitania  and  the 
dispatch  of  the  Note  of  protest  by  the  United  States 
Government.  The  record  would  be  incomplete  were  there 
no  reference  to  the  circumstances  which  attended  the 
destruction  of  the  lona  (3,344  tons)  on  June  3rd.  The 
Io7m  was  twenty- two  miles  off  Fair  Island  (lat.  59°  13'  N, 

CH.  i]  HEAVY  LOSSES   ON   JULY   1  13 

and  long.  1°  12'  W.)  when  she  was  pursued  by  a  submarine. 
The  master  (Mr.  D.  Ritchie)  had  hopes  of  escape  and 
ordered  all  possible  speed.  The  submarine  then  began 
firing,  one  shot  passing  through  the  after  wheel-house, 
and  a  second  striking  the  port  side  of  the  saloon.  Captain 
Ritchie's  own  cabin  was  wrecked  and  a  fireman  was 
injured.  Realising  that  it  was  hopeless  to  make  further 
resistance,  the  master  stopped  the  ship  and  the  crew  took 
to  the  boats.  While  the  men  were  taking  their  places, 
the  enemy  ship  continued  firing,  one  shot  injuring  the 
second  mate  ;  the  steward  was  also  slightly  wounded. 
The  ship  was  then  sunk  by  a  torpedo.  The  shipless  officers 
and  men  were  thus  left  afloat  without  apparent  hope  of 
rescue.  The  submarine,  after  sinking  the  lona,  destroyed 
a  trawler  which  was  in  the  vicinity,  and  the  merchant 
seamen  and  fishermen  then  joined  company  and  shaped 
a  course  for  land.  They  rowed  in  desperation  through 
the  night,  and  happily  on  the  following  morning  were 
sighted  by  the  patrol  trawler  Dover  and  taken  into 

The  month  of  July  opened  badly  for  the  British  Mer- 
cantile Marine,  no  fewer  than  seven  vessels  being  destroyed 
on  the  first  day.  Of  these  two  were  attacked  near  the 
Fastnet  and  the  remainder  at  the  entrance  of  the  English 
Channel.  The  enemy  continued  to  exhibit  a  wide  catho- 
licity, not  disdaining  to  sink  comparatively  small  sailing- 
vessels,  at  a  great  expenditure  of  time,  labour,  and  ex- 
plosives. The  enemy's  methods  in  this  respect  were 
illustrated  in  the  case  of  the  sailing-vessel  L.  C.  Tower 
(518  tons).  This  little  four-mast  schooner  (master,  Mr. 
L.  C.  Tower)  was  on  her  way  to  Newport,  Monmouthshire, 
with  timber  when  she  fell  in  with  a  submarine.  With  all 
sails  set,  she  was  making  a  course  towards  Lundy  Island. 
It  must  have  been  apparent  to  the  Germans  that  the 
vessel  was  of  comparative  unimportance,  but,  nevertheless, 
they  overhauled  the  L.  C.  Tower  at  their  best  speed,  ordered 
the  vessel  to  be  abandoned,  and  then  expended  a  good 
deal  of  trouble  in  setting  her  on  fire.  The  crew  got  ashore 
at  Crookhaven  in  their  motor-boat,  and  the  vessel,  burnt 
to  the  water's  edge,  was  afterwards  towed  into  Berehaven. 
On  the  afternoon  of  the  same  day  the  Welhury  (3,591  tons) 
was  sunk  in  the  same  locality.  The  master  (Mr.  Robert 
Newton),  on  noticing  that  the  enemy  was  trying  to  signal 

14  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

"  Abandon  ship  immediately,"  tm-ned  his  vessel's  head 
towards  the  nearest  point  of  land.  The  submarine,  noticing 
the  mancEuvre,  proceeded  to  cut  the  Welbury  off,  and  then 
discharged  a  warning  gun.  The  pursuit  was  a  short  one, 
as  the  enemy  craft  had  the  advantage  of  speed,  and, 
moreover,  maintained  a  steady  fire  on  the  vessel,  not 
ceasing  even  after  she  had  stopped.  One  shot  went 
through  the  engine-room.  Whereas  in  the  case  of  the 
L.  C.  Tower  the  British  flag  was  confiscated,  no  step  was 
taken  to  obtain  such  a  souvenir  out  of  the  Welbury. 

More  serious  events  were  in  the  meantime  happening 
at  the  entrance  to  the  Channel  ;  the  Gadshy  (3,497  tons), 
the  Craigard  (3,286  tons),  and  the  Richmond  (3,214  tons) 
being  sunk  off  the  Wolf  Rock,  and  the  Caucasian  (4,656 
tons)  and  the  Inglernoor  (4,331  tons)  captured  and  destroyed 
off  the  Lizard.  In  the  case  of  the  Gadshy  (master,  Mr.  St. 
John  Olive)  the  submarine  commander  showed  unexpected 
consideration  for  the  men  whom  he  was  leaving  afloat  in 
their  small  boats  ;  he  inquired  whether  they  had  pro- 
visions and  sails,  and  then,  giving  them  the  position — 
which  proved  to  be  incorrect — torpedoed  the  merchant 
ship  and  disappeared.  Fortunately  the  crew  was  soon 
afterwards  picked  up  by  a  Greek  steamer  and  landed  at 
Londonderry,  without  further  misadventure,  two  days 

At  this  early  date  in  the  submarine  campaign,  British 
seamen  were  irritated  by  the  ignominious  fate  which  was 
dogging  them  ;  their  vessels  were  in  most  cases  of  slow 
speed  and  they  were,  in  accordance  with  the  custom  of 
many  years,  without  any  means  of  defence.  The  story 
of  the  Craigard  (master,  Mr.  A.  McCuUough)  may  be  given 
as  typical  of  the  misfortunes  which  often  faced  the  dauntless 
men  of  the  British  Merchant  Navy.  From  the  beginning 
of  his  voyage,  from  Galveston  (Texas)  to  Le  Havre,  nothing 
but  disaster  had  befaflen  him.  On  June  16th  the  high- 
pressure  engine  broke  down.  That  seemed  the  crowning 
disaster.  After  a  stoppage  of  ten  hours.  Captain  McCul- 
lough  was  able  to  proceed  at  an  average  speed  of  7|  knots. 
His  troubles,  however,  were  not  over. 

"  At  about  8.30  p.m.  July  1st  and  in  lat.  49°  8',  long. 
6°  10'  W.  I  saw,"  he  afterwards  declared,  "  to  the  south- 
ward of  us,  and  at  a  distance  of  about  six  to  seven  miles. 


what  seemed  to  me  something  like  a  torpedo-boat  coming 
up  to  us  very  fast,  a  dense  volume  of  smoke  coming  from 
the  craft.  I  had  my  doubts  what  this  stranger  might  be  ; 
however,  I  was  not  long  kept  in  suspense,  for  without  any 
warning  whatever  the  stranger  commenced  firing  at  us, 
and  as  he  came  nearer  he  displayed  a  signal  to  get  into  the 
boats  at  once,  and  at  the  same  time  he  hoisted  the  German 
flag.  When  he  commenced  firing  I  ordered  the  helm 
hard  a-starboard,  stopped  my  engines,  and  ordered  the 
boats  to  be  lowered,  keeping  the  craft  as  well  astern  as 
possible.  He  kept  firing  away  at  us  until  he  saw  the 
boats  in  the  water.  Then  he  went  on  the  port  quarter 
and  let  us  have  a  few  more  on  the  port  side.  He  then 
left  us  and  went  after  another  steamer  about  a  mile  to  the 
north  of  us  and  commenced  shelling  this  steamer,  putting 
about  a  dozen  shells  into  her  on  both  sides.  Afterwards 
he  returned  to  my  steamer  and  finished  her  off  about  9  p.m. 
of  the  same  date  ;  it  being  dark  at  the  time,  I  do  not 
know  whether  he  boarded  her  or  not,  as  we  were  about  a 
mile  away  from  the  steamer  when  a  terrific  explosion 
occurred  at  the  hour  named  above.  Thus  I  was  forced 
to  abandon  my  ship  tlirough  not  having  any  arms  on 
board  to  retaliate  or  defend  ourselves,  and,  being  in  a  help- 
less state  as  regards  speed,  I  could  not  do  more  than  I  did." 

The  crew  were  more  fortunate  than  perhaps  they 
realised  at  the  time.  None  of  them  was  injured,  and  eight 
hours  after  they  had  taken  to  the  boats  they  were  picked 
up  by  one  of  His  Majesty's  ships  and  landed  at  Plymouth. 

The  sinking  of  the  Caucasian  and  the  Inglemoor  took 
place  in  the  early  morning,  and  was  marked  by  an  incident 
suggesting  that,  though  the  enemy  was  bent  on  ignoring 
the  higher  code  of  humanity,  some  of  the  German  sea- 
men still  retained,  curiously  enough,  a  kindly  feeling 
towards  dumb  animals.  The  Caucasian  (master,  Mr.  F.  H. 
Robinson),  on  voyage  from  London  to  Norfolk  and  Jack- 
sonville, U.S.A.,  was  about  eighty  miles  south  of  the 
Lizard  when  at  5,45  a.m.  a  submarine  was  sighted  in 
the  clear  morning  light.  She  was  on  the  surface  and 
was  coming  at  full  speed  towards  the  merchantman.  She 
signalled  "Abandon  ship  at  once,"  but  Captain  Robinson, 
though  his  vessel  could  not  do  more  than  about  9  knots, 
ignored  the  order  and  steered  a  zigzag  course,  hoping  to 

II — 3 

16  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS       [ch.  i 

keep  the  enemy  astern.  The  submarine  then  opened  fire, 
the  shells  falling  all  round  the  Caucasian,  and  at  last  the 
steersman  left  the  wheel.  The  master,  who  had  been 
on  the  upper  bridge  watching  the  movements  of  the 
submarine,  descended  to  the  lower  bridge  and  took  the 
wheel,  while  the  second  mate  remained  on  the  lookout. 
After  a  chase  of  sixty-five  minutes,  the  seventeenth  shell 
struck  the  compass  stand  and  steering  standard,  with 
disastrous  results,  the  vessel  becoming  unmanageable. 

When  the  crew  had  taken  to  the  boats,  the  enemy  com- 
mander came  alongside  and  declared  that  he  intended  to 
sink  even  the  lifeboats,  because  his  order  to  stop  had  not 
been  obeyed.  At  that  moment  Captain  Robinson's  dog 
fell  overboard,  and  instinctively  he  jumped  into  the  water 
to  save  it.  He  was  clinging  to  the  rails  of  the  submarine, 
when  the  German  commander  exclaimed  with  surprise, 
"You  jump  overboard  to  save  a  dog!"  The  master 
made  no  reply,  but  the  commander,  evidently  moved 
at  Captain  Robinson's  affection  for  his  dog,  announced 
that  the  boats  could  proceed.  That  there  was  a  limit 
to  the  enemy's  consideration  was,  however,  proved  a 
short  time  afterwards  when  the  Inglemoor  (master, 
Mr.  A.  W.  Stonehouse)  appeared  on  the  scene.  Captain 
Stonehouse,  noticing  the  two  boats  full  of  men  with 
a  submarine  near-bv,  decided  to  rescue  the  distressed 
mariners  ;  he  hoped  that  the  enemy  would,  in  the  circum- 
stances, spare  his  own  vessel.  He  was,  however,  to  be 
disappointed.  He  was  compelled  to  abandon  the  Ingle- 
moor under  heavy  fire.  He  reminded  the  enemy  com- 
mander that  the  crews  of  the  two  vessels  amounted  to 
about  one  hundred  men,  and  asked  permission  for  them 
to  go  on  board  the  motor-barge  he  had  been  towing.  The 
request  was  granted.  The  submarine  then  torpedoed 
the  Inglemoor  and  nothing  more  was  seen  of  her.  Jury- 
sails  were  rigged  on  the  barge,  the  master  and  men  of  the 
Caucasian  were  picked  up,  and  later  on  the  motor  engine 
was  started.  These  companions  in  misfortune  fortunately 
fell  in  with  a  patrol-vessel  soon  after  noon  and  were  even- 
tually taken  in  to  Penzance,  thankful  that  they  had  fared 
no  worse  than  they  had  done.  Captain  Robinson  was 
awarded  the  Distinguished  Service  Cross. 

In  one  day  upwards  of  23,000  tons  of  shipping  had  been 
sunk,  but  fortunately  the  enemy  was  unable  to  maintain 

CH.  I]  ACTIVITIES   OF   U39  17 

this  high  standard  of  destruction  during  the  remainder 
of  the  month,  which  closed  with  a  total  loss  of  less  than 
49,000  tons  owing  to  the  submarine  campaign.     On  July 
3rd   only  two   ships,   the  Renfrew   (3,488   tons)   and   the 
Larchmore  (4,355  tons),  were  captured,  both  of  them  being 
sunk  by  gunfire  off  the  Wolf  Rock,  an  area  which  had 
already  yielded  the  enemy  so  many  prizes.     The  master 
of  the  latter  ship  (Mr.   Isaac  Jones)  afterwards  put  on 
record  a  succinct,  but  none  the  less  eloquent,  account  of 
his  experiences.     In  the  early  morning  he  heard  two  muffled 
reports  to  the  east-south-east,  apparently  some  distance 
away.     Shortly  afterwards  two  destroyers  crossed  his  bow 
going  full  speed  towards  the  firing,  and  the  Larchmore 
forthwith   hoisted   her   colours.     This    dramatic   incident 
occurred  at  5.30  in  the  morning,  and  suggested  that  U39, 
which  had  already  done  so  much  injury,  was  being  hotly 
pursued.     The  Larchmore  proceeded  on  her  voyage,  the 
course  of  events  suggesting  that  immediate  danger  of  an 
attack  was  over.     Shortly  after  seven  o'clock,  however,  the 
submarine  appeared  again,  half  submerged,  two  to  two  and 
a  half  miles  away.     She  at  once  rose  to  the  surface  and 
opened  fire.     A  rapid  succession  of  shots  fell  on  the  mer- 
chant ship,  and  Captain  Jones  was  thrown  down  by  the 
concussion,  injuring  his  knee.     For  a  quarter  of  an  hour 
the  firing  was  vigorously  maintained  as  the  submarine 
drew  in  towards  the  doomed  vessel.     One  shell  killed  the 
donkeyman,   and  the  ship  was   holed  in  several  places. 
Escape  was  impossible,  so  the  crew  took  to  the  boats, 
shells  falling  round  them  as  they  sought  this  miserable 
means  of  safety.     The  submarine  afterwards  approached 
the  boats  where  the  dying  donkeyman  lay,  and  Captain 
Jones  was  cross-examined.     This  minor  ordeal  was  soon 
over,  and  the  submarine  resumed  firing  into  the  merchant 
vessel.     He  was  busily  engaged  in  this  task  when  a  cruiser 
appeared  on  the  horizon.     Assistance  had  come  too  late 
to  save  the  ship,  but  at  least  the  crew  were  assured  of  their 
own  safety.     Captain  Isaac  Jones,  who  was  mentioned  in 
despatches,   was,   in  company  with  the  other  survivors, 
afterwards  landed  at  Falmouth,  together  with  the  master 
(Mr.    J.    F.    Stevenson)   of  the  Renfrew,   which  had  also 
been   submitted  to   a  heavy  bombardment   because  the 
master  had  refused  to  capitulate  at  the  first  signal  which 
U39  had  made.     Two  other  ships,  the  Arabia  (7,933  tons) 

18  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

and  the  Guido  (2,093  tons),  were  also  chased  on  this  day, 
but  managed  to  escape. 

Only  two  ships  were  attacked  on  July  4th,  and  one  of 
these,  the   little    sailing-vessel  Sunbeam  (132  tons),   was 
captured    off    Wick.     A   conspicuous    vindication   of   the 
resourcefulness    and    high    courage    of   British    merchant 
seamen  was  supplied  by  the  officers  and  men  of  the  Anglo- 
Californian   (7,333   tons).     At   8.30   a.m.   this   vessel,    on 
passage  from  Montreal  with  a  large  number  of  horses,  was 
about  ninety  miles  south  of  Queenstown  when  an  enemy 
submarine  was  sighted  breaking  surface  on  the  port  beam 
about    three    miles    away.     The    master    (Mr.    Frederick 
Parslow)  immediately  realised  the  imminent  danger  which 
confronted  him.     Every  effort  was  made  to  increase  speed, 
and  the  ship  was  manoeuvred  so  as  to  bring  the  enemy 
astern.     An  S.O.S.  signal  was  sent  out,  and  to  the  relief 
of  everyone  on  board  was  at  once  answered  by  a  British 
man-of-war.     For  half  an  hour  the  submarine  continued 
to  chase  the  Anglo-Calif ornian,  gaining  on  her  rapidly. 
At  last  the  enemy  came  within  firing  distance,  and  then 
for  an  hour  and  a  half,  while  the  merchantman  zigzagged 
backwards  and  forwards  to  confuse  the  aim  of  the  enemy, 
a  steady  fire   was   maintained.     The   British  vessel  was 
frequently  hit,  and  in  order  to  save  life  Captain  Parslow 
decided  to  obey  the  signal  to  abandon  ship.     The  engines 
were   stopped   and  the  boats   manned :     the   port   after- 
lifeboat  was  successfully  lowered,  but  one  of  the  falls  of 
the  starboard  boat  was  struck  by  a  shell,  with  the  result 
that  the  boat  fell  aM'ay  and  capsized.     The  submarine  at 
last   ceased   firing   and   then   closed.     Captain   Parslow's 
courage  in  maintaining  the  chase  had  not,  however,  been 
fruitless,  for  at  this  juncture  an  armed  ship,  the  Princess 
Ena,  which  had  been  slowly  overhauling  the  submarine, 
opened  fire   at  9,000  yards,  to  the  consternation  of  the 
enemy.     The  shot  fell  short,  but  a  wireless  message  from 
a  destroyer  "  to  hold  on  "  gave   Captain  Parslow  fresh 
courage.     The  course  of  events  seemed  to  be  favouring 
him,  so  the  firemen  who  were  in  the  boat  still  on  the  davits 
were  ordered  to  go  once  more  below,  and  orders  were  given 
for  the  ship  to  get  under  way.     The  men  responded  with 
fine  spirit  to  the  master's  orders.     The  submarine,  fearing 
that  after  all  the  ship  might  escape,  opened  fire  at  close 
range  on  the  bridge  and  boats,  rifles  as  well  as  the  vessel's 

CH.  I]  AN   EPIC   OF   THE   SEA  19 

guns  being  brought  into  use.  Captain  Parslow  and  his 
men  were  without  any  means  of  defence.  In  a  few 
moments  the  upper  bridge  had  been  wrecked  and  the  master 
killed  ;  the  steering  wheel  and  compass  had  been  damaged 
and  one  of  the  port  davits  smashed,  causing  a  boat  to 
drop  into  the  sea,  together  with  all  its  occupants.  The 
chief  officer  again  ordered  the  ship  to  be  abandoned,  the 
firemen  came  up  from  below,  and  the  remaining  boats 
were  manned  and  lowered.  The  outlook  seemed  black 
when  suddenly  the  destroyers  Mentor  and  Miranda 
steamed  up.  The  submarine,  counting  discretion  the 
better  part  of  valour,  dived  out  of  sight.  The  Anglo- 
Californian  then  proceeded  under  escort  to  Queenstown, 
which  was  reached  in  safety. 

Captain  Parslow  had  succeeded  in  saving  his  ship,  but 
at  the  sacrifice  of  his  own  life,  and  twenty  members  of  his 
crew  were  also  killed,  seven  others  being  wounded.  Every- 
one on  board,  from  the  master  downward,  had  exhibited 
pluck  and  coolness,  as  well  as  seamanlike  competency,  in 
the  emergency.  Frederick  Parslow,  the  son  of  the  master, 
had  remained  on  the  upper  bridge  with  his  father  through- 
out the  action,  steering  the  ship.  By  little  short  of  a 
miracle,  he  was  unwounded,  although  one  of  the  spokes 
of  the  wheel  was  blown  away  and  the  bridge  was  riddled. 
Under  the  unnerving  circumstances  which  confronted  him 
down  below,  the  chief  engineer  (who,  with  Mr.  Frederick 
Parslow,  afterwards  received  the  Distinguished  Service 
Cross)  maintained  discipline.  Throughout  the  fierce 
fusillade  the  wireless  telegraph  operator  stuck  to  his  post 
on  the  lower  bridge,  sending  and  receiving  accurately  a 
number  of  messages.  A  veterinary  surgeon  (Mr.  F.  Neal), 
who  was  in  charge  of  the  900  horses  on  board,  not  only 
rendered  aid  to  the  animals,  of  which  twenty  were  killed, 
but  under  heavy  fire  attended  to  wounded  members  of 
the  crew.  The  chief  officer  (Mr.  H.  O.  Read),  who  in  the 
later  phase  of  the  action,  after  the  death  of  the  master, 
acquitted  himself  well,  was,  in  common  with  the  second 
engineer  (Mr.  H.  F.  Suddes)  and  the  wireless  operator, 
awarded  a  mention  in  despatches.  As  long  as  the  memory 
of  these  early  days  of  the  submarine  campaign  persists, 
the  story  of  the  unequal  fight  put  up  by  the  unarmed 
Anglo-Calif  or  nian  under  her  heroic  captain  will  be  retold 
as  an  epic  of  the  war  by  sea. 

20  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

That  the  Germans  had  lost  respect  for  the  common 
humanities  to  which  civihsed  seamen  of  all  nationalities, 
not  excluding  avowed  pirates  of  earlier  days,  had  always 
paid  respect,  was  shown  by  the  circumstances  in  which 
the  Meadowfield  (2,750  tons)  was  destroyed  on  July  9th. 
The  four  preceding  days  had  been  disappointing  for  the 
enemy.  On  the  5th,  on  the  6th,  and  on  the  7th  not  a  single 
vessel  had  been  captured.  Aircraft  had  unsuccessfully 
attacked  the  Groningen  (988  tons)  four  miles  off  the  Gal- 
loper, but  the  bombs  had  missed  their  objective  and  she 
had  escaped  unscathed.  The  8th  was  also  a  poor  one 
for  the  Germans,  for  only  one  ship,  the  Guido  (2,093 
tons),  was  torpedoed  off  Rattray  Head.  The  Traquair 
(1,067  tons)  was  chased  on  the  same  day  near  Knock  Deep, 
but  her  speed  enabled  her  to  escape.  The  submarine 
commanders  must  have  known  that  the  German  Admiralty 
were  anxiously  looking  for  better  results  than  were  being 
achieved,  and  it  may  be  that  irritation  under  failure 
accounted  for  the  callousness  exhibited  by  the  submarine 
which  fell  in  with  the  Meadowfield  on  the  afternoon  of 
July  9th.  She  was  a  Glasgow  vessel  and  was  carrying 
copper  ore  from  Huelva.  She  had  started  on  her  voyage 
on  July  3rd,  and  was  fifty  miles  south-west  of  the  Tuskar 
when  the  master  (Mr.  Thomas  Dunbar)  heard  the  sound  of 
a  shot.  He  took  up  his  glasses  to  ascertain  whence  it 
had  come.  Just  as  he  had  picked  up  the  outline  of  a 
submarine  on  the  port  quarter,  another  shot  was  fired 
which  wrecked  the  chart-room  under  the  bridge  as  well  as 
the  wheel-house,  killing  Neil  McLean,  who  was  at  the  wheel. 
Captain  Dunbar  immediately  ordered  the  engines  to  be 
stopped.  In  addition  to  his  crew  he  was  carrying  five 
passengers,  including  two  ladies  and  two  children,  and 
he  could  not  put  their  lives  in  added  danger  by  resistance. 
He  had  confidence  that  if  the  Germans  realised  that  the 
Meadowfield  had  on  board  children  as  well  as  women  they 
would  at  least  cease  firing  while  the  boats  were  lowered. 
So  the  two  children  were  held  up  and  must  have  been  seen 
by  two  of  the  officers  of  the  submarine  who  were  watching 
all  that  was  happening  on  board  the  vessel  through  their 
glasses.  That  they  had  no  mercy  was  proved  by  the  fact 
that  the  shelling  of  the  merchant-ship  still  continued.  In 
a  statement  which  he  subsequently  made  on  oath,  Captain 
Dunbar  recorded  subsequent  events  : 


"  Deponent  ordered  the  boats  out,  and  the  mate  and 
fourteen  hands  got  into  the  port  boat  and  deponent  and 
the  remainder  of  those  on  board,  who  included  two  lady- 
passengers,  one  male  passenger,  and  two  children,  got  into 
the  second  boat,  which  was  the  starboard  lifeboat.  As 
the  port  boat  was  being  lowered  the  submarine  ceased 
firing,  but  as  soon  as  she  got  clear  recommenced,  and  con- 
tinued firing  during  the  time  deponent's  boat  was  being 
lowered  and  got  away." 

Thus  Captain  Dunbar  found  himself  in  charge  of  two 
heavily  laden  boats,  which  included  among  their  freights 
two  women  and  two  children,  forty-two  miles  from  the 
nearest  land.  The  submarine  continued  to  shell  the 
Meadowfield  until  she  sank,  and  then  disappeared.  For- 
tunately at  9  o'clock  that  night  the  two  boats  were  seen 
by  the  Grimsby  trawler  Majestic,  and  Captain  Dunbar 
and  his  companions  were  safely  landed  at  Holyhead 
shortly  after  midnight.  That  the  sinking  of  the  Meadow- 
field  resulted  in  the  loss  of  only  one  hfe  was  due  to  no 
consideration  on  the  part  of  the  Germans. 

On  the  same  day  the  Ellesmere  (1,170  tons)  was  torpedoed 
forty-eight  miles  from  the  Smalls,  apparently  by  the  same 
submarine.  The  master  (Mr.  C.  W.  Heslop)  was  on  passage 
to  Liverpool  when  the  enemy  was  sighted  two  miles  on  the 
starboard  bow.  Captain  Heslop  brought  the  submarine 
astern  of  him  and  then  the  shells  began  to  fall.  The 
second  one  carried  away  the  after  davit  of  the  starboard 
lifeboat.  Four  other  shells  afterwards  struck  the  ship, 
but  still  the  master  hoped  against  hope  that  he  might 
save  his  ship.  With  shells  falling  around  him,  he  still 
held  on  his  course.  At  last  a  shell  passed  through  the 
bridge  deck,  killing  one  man  and  shattering  the  left  arm 
of  another.  The  firemen  down  below  were  in  no  mood  to 
continue  the  unequal  struggle,  and,  as  there  was  no  place 
from  which  to  navigate  the  vessel,  the  master  ordered  the 
Red  Ensign  to  be  lowered  in  token  of  surrender.  A  few 
minutes  later,  after  the  crew  had  got  away,  the  Ellesmere 
was  torpedoed.  Captain  Heslop,  who  was  subsequently 
"  mentioned  "  for  his  spirited  conduct,  had  made  a  plucky 
effort  to  save  his  ship,  and  in  his  sworn  statement  after  he 
and  his  companions  had  been  rescued  by  the  armed 
trawler  Osprey  II,  he  declared  that  the  casualty  "  might 

22  SUBMARINES   IN  BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

have  been  avoided  by  having  a  gun  and  a  gun's  crew  on 
board  the  Ellesmere.^'  That  was  the  cry  of  many  ships' 
masters  at  this  period,  but  new  armies  were  being  raised 
and  equipped  and  required  all  the  armament  which  the 
country  could  provide. 

These  were  the  only  two  vessels  which  were  sunk  on 
July  9th  ;  two  other  ships  were  attacked,  but  effected  their 
escape.  The  Pacific  Steam  Navigation  Company's  Orduna 
(15,499  tons)  was  molested  by  gunfire  and  torpedo  off 
Queenstown  ;  the  gunfire  was  ineffective,  and  the  torpedo 
missed  the  target.  For  the  second  time  the  master  (T.  M. 
Taylor)  could  congratulate  himself  on  the  skilful  and 
successful  handling  of  the  great  liner  he  commanded,  for 
on  the  28th  of  the  previous  month  he  had  been  chased 
off  the  Smalls.  Another  vessel  which  was  also  brought 
safely  into  port  on  July  9th  was  the  Leyland  liner  Etonian 
(6,438  tons),  which,  having  eluded  the  enemy  near  Queens- 
town  on  May  7th,  was  again  chased  by  a  submarine  off 
the  south  of  Ireland.  Competent  use  of  her  high  speed 
saved  her  from  destruction. 

The  master  (J.  C.  Murray)  of  the  Winlaton  (3,270  tons) 
showed  on  Jul}^  10th  how  even  a  slow  ship  handled  with 
determination  could  worst  the  enemj^  The  afternoon  was 
far  spent  when  a  submarine  was  seen  steaming  hard  towards 
the  merchantman  with  the  evident  intention  of  cutting 
her  off.  The  Winlaton  had  little  speed,  and  her  master 
dismissed  the  idea  of  a  chase.  He  decided  that  his  only 
course  was  to  steer  straight  for  the  enemy.  This  he  pro- 
ceeded to  do,  to  the  evident  surprise  of  the  officers  of  the 
submarine.  The  Germans  watched  the  merchantman  for 
some  time,  and  when  she  was  about  a  mile  away  from  them 
they  put  the  nose  of  the  submarine  down  and  were  soon 
out  of  sight.  Twenty  minutes  later  the  submarine  again 
appeared  on  the  surface,  well  astern  of  the  Winlaton,  but 
after  a  short  interval  steamed  slowly  away.  This  was 
the  first  instance  reported  to  the  Admiralty  of  a  slow  ship 
sighting  a  submarine  at  a  distance  and  by  steering  straight 
for  her  causing  her  to  dive  and  decline  action.  In  recogni- 
tion of  his  initiative  and  courage,  Captain  Murray  was 
given  a  commission  as  a  Lieutenant,  R.N.R.  and  a  "  men- 

During  the  remainder  of  the  month,  though  thirteen 
ships  were  chased  by  submarines,  only  six  of  them  were 

CH.  I]  THE   TOLL   OF   JULY  23 

destroyed,  and  of  these  but  two — the  Grangewood  (3,422 
tons)  and  the  Iberian  (5,223  tons) — exceeded  2,000  tons. 
The  master  of  the  last-named  ship  (Mr.  Thomas  B.  Jago) 
attempted  to  get  away.  Circumstances  seemed  to  favour 
him,  for  the  submarine  was  about  seven  miles  distant  when 
first  sighted  in  a  position  over  seventy  miles  south  of  the 
Fastnet.  He  had  under  his  orders  a  well-found  ship  with 
a  turn  for  speed,  and  when  he  gave  orders  for  a  full  head 
of  steam  he  received  excellent  support  from  the  engine- 
room.  The  enemy,  however,  had  evidently  noticed  that 
the  Iberian  was  unarmed,  and  he  had  no  hesitation,  there- 
fore, in  attempting  to  overhaul  her.  As  he  gained  upon 
the  merchantman,  shells  began  to  fall,  and  one  of  them 
pierced  the  deck  and  decapitated  four  men  besides  wound- 
ing several  others.  The  next  shell  struck  in  the  same 
place  and  blew  one  man  to  pieces.  Captain  Jago  realised 
that  he  could  not  expose  his  crew  to  further  risk  of  death, 
and  accordingly  he  ordered  the  ship  to  be  stopped.  Leav- 
ing behind  the  bodies  of  the  four  men  who  had  been  killed, 
but  taking  with  them  the  eight  wounded,  the  officers  and 
remaining  men  manned  the  boats  and  were  soon  clear  of 
the  doomed  vessel.  The  submarine  then  closed  in  and 
discharged  a  torpedo  into  the  Iberian.  The  commander, 
having  reproached  Captain  Jago  with  running  away, 
provided  bandages  and  lint  for  the  wounded,  and  then, 
having  discharged  another  torpedo  into  the  port  side  of 
the  merchantman,  disappeared.  "Had  I  had  a  gun,"  the 
master  afterwards  recorded,  "  I  would  have  sunk  the 
submarine  and  certainly  the  Iberian  would  have  escaped." 
Late  that  night  the  boats  attracted  the  attention  of  a 
steamer,  which  took  the  exhausted  officers  and  men  on 
board.  Before  Queenstown  was  reached  two  of  the 
wounded  seamen  died.  Captain  Jago  was  "  mentioned  " 
for  his  service. 

During  the  remaining  days  of  the  month  sixteen  more 
lives  were  lost,  four  on  board  the  Firth  (406  tons),  which 
was  sunk  near  Aldeburgh  Napes  buoy,  and  eleven  in  the 
Mangara  (1,821  tons),  which  was  destroyed  near  Sizewell 
buoy,  Aldeburgh.  Both  vessels  were  torpedoed  without 
warning.  The  other  casualty  occurred  in  the  Turquoise 
(486  tons).  This  ship,  together  with  the  Nugget  (405 
tons),  was  captured  and  sunk  by  gunfire  off  the  Scillies. 
The  month  of  July  closed  with  the  loss  of  twenty  ships, 

24  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

of  52,847  tons,  the  African  Monarch  (4,003  tons)  having 
been  blown  up  by  a  mine  on  the  6th  of  the  month  at  the 
entrance  of  the  White  Sea  and  two  men  killed.  Nineteen 
other  ships,  of  88,886  tons,  had  been  molested  or  damaged, 
including  two  which  struck  mines  and  the  one,  already 
mentioned,  which  had  been  attacked  by  aircraft.  The 
deaths  reached  a  total  of  fifty-nine. 

During  August  enemy  submarines  made  a  determined 
attempt  to  justify  the  high  hopes  which  the  Germans  had 
entertained  when  they  determined  to  employ  submarines, 
as  well  as  mines,  in  attacking  ocean-borne  trade.  Before 
the  month  closed  forty-nine  vessels  of  the  British  Mercan- 
tile Marine,  of  147,122  tons,  had  been  sunk  with  a  loss  of 
no  fewer  than  248  lives.  Twenty-one  other  ships  had 
escaped,  but  nevertheless  the  toll  exacted  of  men  and  ships 
was  a  heavy  one.  So  far  as  tonnage  is  concerned,  it  was 
indeed  the  most  successful  month  the  Germans  had 
hitherto  experienced,  and  it  was  apparent  that  exceptional 
efforts  were  being  made  to  support  public  confidence 
throughout  Germany  in  the  ultimate  victory  of  the  Central 
Powers  as  the  result  of  the  campaign.  Although  seven 
ships  disappeared  after  striking  mines,  the  great  bulk  of 
the  tonnage  fell  to  the  submarine.  August  1915  was  in- 
deed a  black  month  for  British  shipowners  and  British 

On  August  1st  the  Clintonia  (3,830  tons),  after  a 
spirited  defence  by  her  master  (Mr.  Geoffrey  Donnelly) 
under  a  heavy  fire,  was  sunk  thirty  miles  from  Ushant  ; 
five  Europeans  and  five  Lascars  were  drowned  owing  to 
the  capsizing  of  a  ship's  boat,  and  a  number  of  men  were 
wounded  during  the  running  fire  which  the  submarine 
maintained  before  Captain  Donnelly  ordered  his  engines 
to  be  stopped. 

On  the  same  day  three  more  casualties  from  drowning 
occurred  when  the  Banza  (2,320  tons)  was  overtaken 
off  Ushant  by  U68.  After  the  ship  had  been  abandoned 
and  had  disappeared  beneath  the  waves  and  the  sub- 
marine had  gone  away,  the  shipless  crew  hoisted  sail. 
One  of  the  boats  capsized  ;  she  was  righted  with  diffi- 
culty, but  was  still  waterlogged  and  the  sails  had  been 
lost.  About  an  hour  later  she  again  capsized  and  was 
once  more  righted.  For  six  hours  the  unfortunate  seamen, 
when  they  were  not  fighting  for  life  in  the  water,  were 


sitting  in  the  boat  with  the  water  covering  them  up  to  the 
chest.  One  fireman  became  dehrious  and  fell  to  the 
bottom  of  the  boat  and  was  drowned  before  he  could  be 
picked  up.  His  body  was  quietly  lowered  over  the  side. 
Fortunately,  during  the  evening  of  this  tragic  Sunday  a 
French  fishing-boat  rescued  the  twelve  survivors.  The 
other  boat  of  the  Ranza  was  picked  up  by  a  Dutch  vessel. 

During  the  succeeding  days  of  August  the  losses  of 
tonnage  continued  to  mount  up,  many  useful  vessels  of 
considerable  tonnage  being  destroyed.  On  the  3rd  inst. 
the  Costello  (1,591  tons)  was  sunk  by  gunfire  ninety-five 
miles  W.  by  S.  from  Bishop  Rock,  with  a  loss  of  one  life ; 
two  men  were  killed  in  the  Glenhy  (2,196  tons)  thirty  miles 
N.  from  the  Smalls  ;  two  seamen  were  killed  in  the  Dunsley 
(4,930  tons),  which  was  sunk  off  the  Old  Head  of  Kinsale ; 
and  then  occurred  one  of  the  outstanding  crimes  of  the 
submarine  campaign  when  the  White  Star  Company's 
liner  Arabic  (15,801  tons)  was  sunk  by  U24.  The  enemy 
craft  had  bombarded  the  naphtha  tanks  near  Harrington 
on  August  16th,  and  then,  proceeding  by  way  of  the  St. 
George's  Channel,  had  reached  a  position  where  the 
Atlantic  traffic  was  thick.  The  Arabic  had  left  Liverpool 
early  in  the  afternoon  of  August  18th  with  137  cabin 
passengers  and  forty-nine  third-class  passengers,  of  whom 
many  were  of  neutral  nationality.  They  included  twenty- 
six  Americans,  as  well  as  French,  Russians,  Belgians,  Swiss 
and  Spanish  travellers,  with  a  German  who  possessed  a 
Home  Office  permit.  The  crew  numbered  248.  As  the 
vessel  was  outward  bound  to  the  United  States,  there  was 
no  possibility  that  she  carried  ammunition.  All  the  boats 
were  fully  equipped  and  carried  compasses,  oilbags,  oil 
lamps,  sea  anchors,  and  matches,  and  were  in  a  thoroughly 
seaworthy  condition.  The  boats  were  carried  inboard 
on  their  chocks,  and  all  rafts  and  patent  boats  were  un- 
lashed  and  ready  to  float  off.  Six  hundred  lifebelts  had 
been  placed  about  the  decks,  fore  and  aft,  so  as  to  be  handy 
in  case  of  an  emergency.  The  watertight  doors  had  been 
closed,  as  wtII  as  the  doors  of  the  shaft  tunnel,  and  the 
lower  deck  ports  had  been  secured.  Every  precaution 
had,  in  fact,  been  taken  to  secure  the  safety  of  the  ship 
and  all  on  board. 

About  9  o'clock  on  the  following  morning,  when  the 
vessel  was  about  fifty  miles  off  the  Old  Head  of  Kinsale, 

26  SUBIVIARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

a  steamer  was  sighted  five  miles  away  on  the  starboard 
bow.  The  Arabic  was  zigzagging,  in  view  of  the  general 
peril  to  which  British  ships  were  exposed  in  these 
waters,  and  the  general  direction  of  her  course  gradually 
brought  her  nearer  to  what  was  evidently  a  British  mer- 
chant ship,  which  was  stopped.  It  was  noticed  that  two 
boats  under  sail,  full  of  men,  were  making  towards  the 
land,  which  was,  of  course,  out  of  sight.  Observers  on 
board  the  Arabic  saw  that  the  steamer  was  well  down  by 
the  head,  and  realised  at  once  that  she  had  been  torpedoed 
by  the  enemy.  This  vessel  was  the  Dunsley  of  London, 
which  had  been  subjected  to  a  heavy  shelling  for  twenty 
minutes — two  men  being  killed,  as  already  stated,  and  six 
others  injured  before  the  master  (Mr.  P.  L.  Arkley)  aban- 
doned hope  of  saving  his  ship. 

The  chief  officer  and  the  second  officer  were  on  watch 
on  the  bridge  of  the  Arabic  when  the  sinking  Dunsley 
came  into  sight.  The  master  of  the  Arabic  (Mr.  W.  Finch) 
concluded  that  the  Dunsley  had  been  torpedoed,  so  he 
altered  course  about  three  points  to  the  southward, 
intending  to  keep  well  clear  of  the  area  in  which  a  sub- 
marine might  be  lurking.  For  some  time  the  liner  con- 
tinued on  her  new  course,  still  zigzagging,  and  a  wireless 
message  was  promptly  dispatched  notifying  the  fate 
which  had  overtaken  the  Dunsley.  No  submarine,  how- 
ever, was  seen  at  this  period  either  from  the  bridge  or 
by  the  lookout  men.  The  passengers  and  others  who 
were  watching  the  Dunsley  sinking  lower  and  lower  in  the 
water  were  hoping  that  after  all  the  Arabic  would  escape 
molestation,  when  the  ship  was  shaken  from  end  to  end 
by  an  explosion,  the  wireless-room  being  wrecked  and  the 
aerial  carried  away.  The  second  officer  (Mr.  F.  F.  Steele) 
had  just  moved  to  the  starboard  end  of  the  bridge  when 
a  line  of  air-bubbles  on  the  starboard  bow,  about  100 
yards  away,  caught  his  attention.  He  instantly  realised 
that  a  torpedo  had  been  discharged  at  the  liner,  and  he 
shouted  to  the  master,  "  Here  he  is,  sir.  He  has  let  go  at 
us.  Hard  a-starboard  !  "  Captain  Finch,  who  had  also 
observed  the  menacing  streak,  at  once  gave  orders  for  a 
full  head  of  steam  and  the  helm  was  put  over.  Everyone 
on  board  who  was  aware  of  the  impending  crisis  anxiously 
waited  to  see  if  the  ship  would  clear  the  torpedo.  Doubt 
was  quickly  resolved,  the  vessel  being  struck  aft,  almost 

CH.  I]  U24  SINKS   THE    "  ARABIC  "  27 

abreast  of  the  jigger  mast.  The  Arabic  was  doomed  ; 
the  second  officer  put  the  engine-room  telegraph  to  "  Stop  " 
and  then  to  "  Full  speed  astern"  so  as  to  get  way  off  her, 
and  thus  enable  the  boats  to  be  launched.  Captain  Finch, 
noticing  that  the  ship  was  beginning  to  list  to  port,  ordered 
everyone  to  the  boats,  for  there  was  no  time  to  be  lost. 

It  is  unnecessary  to  describe  the  scene  on  board  when 
the  passengers,  who  included  a  large  number  of  women 
and  children,  realised  that  within  a  few  minutes  the 
Arabic  would  probably  sink.  The  sequel  showed  that  the 
ship  had  been  well  organised  for  an  emergency  ;  while 
of  the  crew  of  243,  21  lost  their  lives,  only  18  passengers 
— 12  cabin  and  6  steerage — were  reported  missing,  so 
efficiently  and  quickly  were  the  boats  swung  out,  lowered, 
and  filled.  Seeing  that  the  time  which  separated  the 
impact  of  the  torpedo  and  the  sinking  of  the  Arabic 
amounted  to  only  eight  minutes,  it  was  due  to  no  act  of 
mercy  on  the  part  of  the  enemy  that  the  death-roll  was 
not  far  greater.  Captain  Finch  remained  on  the  bridge 
directing  operations  for  the  saving  of  life,  and  when  the 
Arabic  sank,  having  righted  herself  before  she  plunged 
stern  first,  he  went  down  with  her.  A  few  seconds  later 
he  rose  to  the  surface,  to  discover  that  his  vessel  had 
completely  disappeared.  A  man  of  robust  build,  of  about 
seventeen  stone,  he  managed  to  cling  to  a  raft  from 
which,  exhausted  though  he  was,  he  swam  to  a  boat.  He 
helped  a  fireman  into  her  and  then  picked  up  a  woman 
and  a  baby  before  he  himself  sought  this  poor  means  of 
safety.  After  another  fireman  had  been  rescued,  the  whole 
of  the  little  company  transferred  to  a  lifeboat  which  was 
near-by,  and  Captain  Finch  took  command  of  all  the  craft 
which  were  afloat  among  the  wreckage.  Mr.  Bowen, 
chief  officer,  and  Mr.  Oliver,  first  officer,  had  also  re- 
mained in  the  ship  until  the  last,  Mr.  Oliver  diving  over- 
board from  the  forward  part  of  B  Deck  on  the  starboard 
side,  while  Mr.  Bowen  slid  down  the  after  fall  of  No.  1 
emergency  boat,  to  be  picked  up  by  one  of  the  boats 
already  in  the  water. 

As  soon  as  the  engines  had  stopped,  all  hands  left  the 
stokehold  except  one  man  who  was  standing  by  the  tele- 
graphs and  a  junior  engineer  (Mr.  P.  G.  Logan).  No 
purpose  was  to  be  served  in  remaining,  so  they  too  began 
to  climb  up  to  the  deck.     What  happened  to  the  fireman 

28  SUBIVIARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

is  uncertain,  but  Mr.  Logan  escaped  and  was  afterwards 
able  to  give  an  account  of  his  experiences.  He  left  the 
engine-room  on  the  port  side  of  the  deck  below  the  main 
deck.  Securing  a  lifebelt,  he  ran  along  the  port  alley- 
way. When  he  had  advanced  a  short  distance,  the  water 
met  him  and  he  threw  the  lifebelt  away,  as  it  impeded  his 
progress.  At  last  he  was  able  to  reach  the  companionway 
to  the  poop,  which  was  already  three  feet  under  water. 
On  the  starboard  side  a  boat,  with  about  a  dozen  persons 
in  it,  was  already  afloat  on  the  falls,  indicating  the  rapidity 
with  which  the  Arabic  was  sinking.  Mr.  Logan  unhooked 
the  forward  fall  and  a  quartermaster  released  the  after 
fall.  The  boat  was  thus  got  clear  of  the  vessel,  which 
disappeared  a  few  minutes  later.  Just  as  the  Arabic  was 
sinking,  Mr.  Logan  saw  a  collapsible  boat  with  six  or  seven 
persons  in  her,  who  were  apparently  unable  to  control  her. 
As  the  boat  was  only  ten  or  fifteen  yards  away,  he  took  off 
his  boots  and  boiler  suit  and  swam  towards  her,  and  then 
took  charge.  With  the  aid  of  his  companions,  he  pulled 
towards  the  wreckage  and  fourteen  persons  were  rescued 
from  the  water. 

In  the  meantime  Mr.  Steele,  the  second  officer,  had 
taken  charge  of  No.  11  boat,  which  was  safely  lowered 
with  thirty-seven  occupants.  The  first  officer  had  found 
temporary  safety  in  this  overcrowded  boat,  but  a 
few  minutes  later  he  transferred  to  another,  while  the 
third  officer  went  to  a  collapsible  boat  which  was 
near-by.  Apparently  a  large  proportion  of  the  deaths 
were  due  to  the  capsizing  of  No.  16  boat.  This  craft  was 
drawn  by  the  suction  of  the  water  towards  the  rapidly 
sinking  Arabic,  which  had  assumed  an  almost  perpendi- 
cular position.  A  davit  caught  the  boat  and  smashed 
it  into  pieces.  Forty-two  or  forty-three  people  were  con- 
sequently thrown  into  the  water.  An  able  seaman 
managed  to  reach  one  of  the  rafts,  with  which  the  White 
Star  Line  had  recently  equipped  the  Arabic  as  well  as  other 
vessels  under  their  control,  and  from  this  position  of  com- 
parative safety  he  effected  a  number  of  rescues.  The 
carpenter  of  the  Arabic,  Norman  MacAuley,  was  also 
responsible  for  saving  a  number  of  lives.  As  soon  as  the 
fate  of  the  vessel  was  certain,  he  went  to  the  saloon  door 
on  Deck  C  and  assisted  some  ladies  in  putting  on  their 
lifebelts.     He  then  plunged   down  to  the  after   part  of 


E  Deck  to  investigate  the  damage  which  had  been  done 
there,  but  he  was  driven  back  by  the  flow  of  water.  Going 
to  the  boat  deck,  he  was  able  to  give  aid  to  a  number  of 
other  lady  passengers  and  subsequently  returned  to 
Deck  C.  He  afterwards  gave  an  account  of  his  later 
experiences : 

"  My  boat  station  was  No.  7.  I  helped  people  into  No. 
7  boat  and  then,  as  there  were  plenty  of  hands  there, 
I  assisted  others  into  No.  5  and  No.  3  boats.  The  water 
was  now  coming  over  the  stern,  and  C  Deck  was  submerged 
for  a  considerable  distance.  No.  3  boat  was  filled  up,  and 
as  no  passengers  were  to  be  seen  on  deck,  I  took  my  place 
in  this  lifeboat  and  kept  her  clear  of  the  ship's  side  as  she 
was  lowered.  The  boat  reached  the  water  safely.  My 
boat  picked  up  two  other  persons — one  steward  and  one 
passenger — after  the  boat  had  sailed  four  times  through 
the  wreckage." 

These  chance  stories  of  the  manner  in  which  the  Arabic, 
with  her  freight  of  429  persons,  was  abandoned  in  the 
urgent  emergency  convey  some  conception  of  the  fine  spirit 
exhibited  by  officers  and  men,  from  Captain  Finch  down- 
wards, in  their  care  of  those  confided  to  their  charge. 
Fortunately  the  S.O.S.  signal  which  had  been  sent  out  by 
the  liner  when  the  Dunsley  was  seen  to  be  in  distress  was 
responded  to  quickly  by  patrol  vessels,  and  all  the  sur- 
vivors, numbering  390,  were  landed  at  Queenstown. 

The  remainder  of  the  month  yielded  other  incidents  to 
show  that  nothing  that  had  yet  occurred  by  sea  had 
broken  the  spirit  of  British  merchant  seamen.  They 
would  not  admit  defeat  even  when,  unarmed  themselves, 
they  were  confronted  by  a  desperate  enemy  possessing 
gun  and  torpedo  in  association  with  power  of  submergence, 
enabling  him  to  deal  stealthy  and  mortal  blows.  Among 
the  narratives  of  this  period  there  stands  out  the  case  of 
the  Eimstad  (689  tons).  A  submarine  hailed  the  ship 
off  Cross  Sand  Light- vessel  on  August  17th,  at  the 
same  time  opening  fire  with  both  guns.  None  of  the 
eleven  shells  hit  the  Eimstad.  Then  a  torpedo  was  fired, 
which  missed.  In  the  meantime  the  master  (Mr.  F.  A. 
Holder)  had  all  lights  doused,  himself  cutting  the  steam- 
light  halyards.     An  attempt  to  ram  the  submarine  failed. 

30  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

but  the  spirit  which  was  exhibited  eventually  caused  the 
enemy  to  abandon  the  contest  and  he  disappeared.  Cap- 
tain Holder  was  "  mentioned  "  for  saving  his  ship.  An- 
other conspicuous  case  of  resistance  was  that  of  the  Dioined 
(4,672  tons),  belonging  to  Messrs.  Alfred  Holt  &  Co.  This 
ship  (master,  Mr.  J.  Myles)  was  outward  bound  from  Liver- 
pool to  Shanghai.  She  carried  a  crew  of  fifty-three  hands, 
and  had  on  board  a  mixed  cargo  of  about  8,000  tons. 
At  11  o'clock  on  the  morning  of  August  22nd  the  Diomed 
was  about  fifty-seven  miles  W.N.W.  from  the  Scillies 
— an  area  in  which  very  heavy  losses  were  sustained  during 
this  month— when  a  submarine  was  observed.  Captain 
Myles  was  on  the  bridge  with  the  chief  officer,  and  as  the 
Diomed  could  steam  at  about  13|  knots  and  the  enemy 
was  distant  at  least  six  miles,  he  determined  to  make  a 
fight  for  his  vessel  and  all  that  she  carried.  So  the  helm 
was  ported  and  very  soon  the  submarine  was  lost  to  sight. 

It  looked  as  though  the  Diomed  would  escape.  But 
after  she  had  run  for  a  considerable  time  in  a  westerly 
direction,  a  submarine — whether  the  same  one  as  had 
been  first  sighted  or  another  is  uncertain — was  observed  on 
the  port  beam.  The  distance  was  again  estimated  at 
about  six  miles.  Once  more  the  helm  was  ported  in  order 
to  bring  the  submarine  astern.  These  incidents  occupied 
three-quarters  of  an  hour,  and  the  immunity  they  had 
hitherto  rewarded  his  efforts  gave  Captain  Myles  fresh 
confidence.  But  at  last  the  enemy  lessened  the  distance 
separating  her  from  the  merchantman  and  opened  fire. 
The  range  was  about  three  miles.  For  over  two  hours 
the  chase  had  been  in  progress  when  the  shot  began  to 
break  up  the  stern  of  the  ship  ;  fire  was  then  concentrated 
on  the  fore  part  of  the  vessel,  and  then  it  was  directed 
against  the  bridge.  The  enemy  had  made  no  signal  and 
was  flying  no  flag.  The  first  victim  was  the  third  steward, 
who  was  killed  while  standing  on  the  fore  part  of  the  ship. 
Shortly  after  two  o'clock  Captain  Myles  was  mortally 
wounded  as  well  as  the  quartermaster,  while  the  chief 
officer  (Mr.  F.  A.  McGowan  Richardson),  on  whom  the 
command  had  now  devolved,  was  himself  seriously  injured. 

By  this  time  the  position  of  the  Diomed  had  become 
hopeless,  and  the  chief  officer  ordered  the  vessel  to  be 
abandoned.  Two  boats  on  the  port  side  had  been 
reduced  to  matchwood  by  the  shell- fire,  and  of  the  two 


boats  on  the  starboard  side  one  had  been  holed.  This 
damage  was  unfortunately  not  observed  until  the  boat 
had  been  lowered  into  the  water  with  twenty  men  in  her, 
when  she  rapidly  filled  and  capsized.  Mr.  John  Rennie, 
the  second  mate,  took  charge  of  the  uninjured  starboard 
boat,  but  an  internal  explosion  in  the  engine-room  of  the 
Diomed  resulted  in  a  quantity  of  water  being  shipped.  In 
these  circumstances  the  prospect  of  any  of  the  officers 
and  men  being  saved  seemed  slight. 

The  Germans  on  board  the  attacking  submarine 
evinced  no  interest  in  their  fate.  The  damaged  star- 
board boat  had  capsized,  and  the  unfortunate  men 
who  had  been  in  her  were  left  to  the  mercy  of  the 
waves.  Mr.  Rennie,  fully  realising  his  responsibility, 
succeeded  in  getting  his  boat  baled  out,  and  then  the 
men  in  the  water  were  picked  up.  Those  who  were 
clinging  to  the  capsized  boat  had  to  be  left  for  the 
time  being,  as  Mr.  Rennie,  with  thirty-four  men  in  his 
charge,  could  do  nothing  for  them.  He  had  hopes  of 
getting  out  the  gig  before  the  Diomed  sank,  and  with  this 
intention  drew  in  towards  the  doomed  vessel.  The  sub- 
marine had  apparently  disappeared,  but  as  soon  as  Mr. 
Rennie  approached  the  Diomed,  the  enemy  reappeared  on 
the  surface  and  made  towards  him,  compelling  him  to 
abandon  his  purpose.  In  the  circumstances  nothing 
more  could  be  done,  and  a  few  minutes  later  the  Diomed 
disappeared  beneath  the  waves.  Mr.  Rennie  in  his  heavily 
laden  boat  then  headed  for  the  Irish  coast.  At  about 
six  o'clock  he  fell  in  with  a  destroyer,  which  promptly 
returned  to  the  spot  where  the  Diomed  had  been  sunk  and 
picked  up  the  survivors  on  the  capsized  starboard  boat. 
In  the  deposition  which  he  subsequently  made  Mr.  Rennie 
stated  that  the  "  submarine  rendered  no  assistance.  The 
Commander  looked  at  the  men  in  the  water  and  shook  his 
fist  at  me,  saying  something  in  German."  The  splendid 
resistance  which  Captain  Myles  and  his  officers  and  men 
had  made  in  the  effort  to  save  their  ship  was  highly  com- 
mended by  the  Admiralty,  and  the  Distinguished  Service 
Cross  was  conferred  on  the  chief  officer.  The  toll  of  life 
lost  was  ten,  the  master  and  two  others  being  killed  by 
the  shell-fire  and  seven  being  drowned  through  the  cap- 
sizing of  the  starboard  lifeboat,  which  the  enemy's  shell-fire 
had  rendered  unseaworthy. 

II — 4 

32  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

Three  other  incidents  find  place  in  the  record  of  this 
month,  and  they  all  occurred  on  August  21st  at  the 
entrance  to  the  Channel.  The  Cober  (3,060  tons)  and  the 
Ruel  (4,029  tons)  were  sunk,  but  the  other  vessel,  the 
San  Melito  (10,160  tons),  was  rescued.  The  master  (Mr, 
John  J.  Peterfield)  of  the  former  put  up  a  plucky  fight  on 
this  summer  day.  He  came  across  a  submarine  when 
forty-five  miles  S.S.W.  from  the  Scillies.  He  promptly 
brought  her  astern  of  him  and  a  chase  lasting  an  hour 
ensued,  during  which  the  enemy  maintained  an  inter- 
mittent fire  of  high-explosive  shells.  At  last  the  poop 
was  struck  and  considerable  damage  was  done.  Some  of 
the  men  of  the  Cober,  without  waiting  for  orders,  rushed 
the  boats  and  tried  to  lower  one  of  them,  with  the  result 
that  several  of  them  were  thrown  into  the  water.  Captain 
Peterfield  still  continued  on  his  course,  ordering  the  cliief 
officer  to  endeavour,  in  another  boat,  to  rescue  the  men  who 
were  fighting  for  life  about  two  miles  off.  In  this  he 
succeeded  against  heavy  odds.  All  hope  of  saving  the 
Cober  had  been  abandoned,  and  Captain  Peterfield,  bowing 
before  the  inevitable,  at  last  prepared  to  abandon  his  ship. 
The  submarine  had  submerged,  and  as  he  left  the  ship  at 
1.20  p.m.  a  torpedo  struck  the  Cober  on  the  port  side,  and 
in  a  short  time  she  sunk.  Fortunately  for  Captain  Peter- 
field, who  was  "  mentioned  "  for  his  conduct,  as  well  as 
for  his  companions,  they  were  soon  afterwards  picked  up 
by  the  Dutch  steamer  Monnikeandam  and  were  landed 
at  Falmouth. 

The  Cober  was  a  slow  ship,  but  the  San  Melito 
(master,  Mr.  James  D.  Jackson)  was  one  of  the  Eagle  Oil 
Transport  fleet  with  a  turn  for  speed.  She  was  seventy 
miles  S.W.  from  the  Lizard  when  a  submarine  appeared. 
Captain  Jackson  manoeuvred  his  ship  to  bring  the  enemy 
astern  at  2.50  p.m.,  and  in  the  meantime  ordered  full 
speed.  An  official  record  of  subsequent  events  is  to  the 
following  effect : 

"  The  San  Melito  was  struck  on  the  starboard  side  by 
a  shell,  the  concussion  stunning  the  master,  and  at  the 
same  time  the  quartermaster  left  the  wheel,  which  was 
taken  by  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  W.  Piper)  for  the  remainder 
of  the  action.  The  submarine  continued  to  chase  and 
shell   the  San  Melito  until  about  3.30  p.m.,  doing  slight 

CH.  I]  A   BRUTAL  DEED  33 

damage  to  the  ship,  but  causing  no  casualties  among  the 
crew.  Patrol  craft  then  appearing  about  five  miles  off, 
the  submarine  dived  and  disappeared." 

In  these  circumstances,  owing  to  the  courage  and  deter- 
mination of  Captain  Jackson  and  his  officers  and  men,  the 
San  Melito  was  saved.  Captain  Jackson,  the  chief  officer, 
and  the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  W.  Morralee)  were  mentioned 
in  despatches,  and  Captain  Jackson  was  also  given  a  com- 
mission as  Lieutenant  in  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve. 

The  officers  and  men  of  the  Ruel  were  singled  out  for 
a  demonstration  by  the  enemy  of  the  brutal  methods  he 
was  prepared  to  adopt  in  the  hope  of  breaking  the  spirit 
of  the  British  merchant  seaman.  This  ship  left  Gibraltar 
on  August  16th  for  Barry  Roads,  in  ballast,  and  on  the 
afternoon  of  August  21st  a  submarine  appeared  on  the 
starboard  quarter  and  opened  fire  at  a  range  of  about  three 
miles.  The  master  (Mr.  Henry  Story)  altered  his  ship's 
course  to  westward  and,  raising  all  steam,  which  gave  him 
a  speed  of  8j  knots,  managed  to  keep  the  submarine 
astern  of  him.  A  chase  ensued  which  lasted  for  one  and 
a  half  hours,  when  a  shell  passed  through  the  RueVs  stern, 
another  bursting  over  the  bridge.  By  this  time  the  enemy 
was  only  a  mile  away,  and  the  crew  of  the  Ruel  took  to 
the  two  boats.  The  submarine  then  closed  in  and  fired 
six  effective  shots.  The  enemy  had  killed  one  man,  a 
steward,  and  had  wounded  eight  others,  but  he  was  still 
unsatisfied  and  proceeded  to  fire  on  the  boats,  the  sub- 
marine commander  picking  men  off  with  his  revolver. 
Captain  Story,  the  second  officer  (Mr.  W.  J.  Stenhouse), 
and  Lieutenant  D.  Blair,  R.N.R.,  subsequently  made  a 
statement  on  oath  to  the  effect  that  "  when  in  the  act  of 
abandoning  the  steamer  Ruel  in  a  sinking  condition  due 
to  attack  by  a  German  submarine,  we  were  fired  on  while 
alongside  and  pulling  away  from  the  above  vessel,  the 
wounds  of  those  injured  showing  that  both  shrapnel  and 
rifle  bullets  were  used."  They  added  that  "  the  submarine 
was  distant  about  150  yards,  and  close  enough  for  the  crew 
to  observe  that  we  and  the  remainder  of  the  crew  of  the 
steamer  Ruel  were  abandoning  the  ship  and  had  given  up 
any  further  attempts  to  escape."  The  Ruel  sank  forty- 
five  miles  S.W.  from  Bishop  Rock,  and  the  survivors  were 
fortunate  in  that  as  she  disappeared  the  armed  trawler 

34  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH   WATERS        [ch.  i 

Dewsland  appeared  upon  the  scene,  accompanied  by  the 
drifter  Campania.  These  two  craft,  though  they  arrived 
too  late  to  save  the  Ruel  from  destruction,  drove  off  the 
submarine  and  rescued  Captain  Story  and  his  companions, 
who  were  landed,  without  further  incident,  at  St.  Mar,  in 
the  Scillies. 

For  reasons  which  were  afterwards  to  be  revealed,  the 
losses  from  submarine  attack  both  of  ships  and  men 
during  September  were  far  less  heavy  than  in  the  preceding 
month.  The  number  of  ships — eight,  of  11,997  tons — 
blown  up  was,  however,  the  highest  hitherto  recorded, 
suggesting  that  the  enemy  had  been  devoting  increased 
attention  to  the  laying  of  minefields.  In  all  seventy-seven 
men  were  killed  and  the  thirty  ships  which  were  sunk  were 
of  101,690  tons.  A  further  indication  of  a  temporary  lull 
in  the  submarine  campaign  in  the  waters  surrounding  the 
British  Isles  was  furnished  by  the  small  number  of  ships 
which  were  molested  by  the  enemy  but  succeeded  in  making 
their  escape. 

Twenty-seven  vessels  were  interfered  with  by  sub- 
marines, and  their  records  furnish  a  number  of  illus- 
trations of  the  spirit  exhibited  by  officers  and  men  in  the 
unequal  contest.  The  master  (Mr.  Henry  John)  of  the 
Whitefield  (2,422  tons)  made  a  spirited  effort,  under  a 
running  fire,  to  elude  capture  off  Cape  Wrath,  on  the 
north-west  coast  of  Scotland,  on  September  1st,  while  on 
his  way  from  Archangel  to  Nice.  On  the  following  day 
the  Roumanie  (2,599  tons),  also  outward  bound  from 
Archangel,  was  captured  and  destroyed  by  bombs  off  St. 
Kilda.  Although  the  Churston  (2,470  tons)  was  mined 
off  Orfordness,  four  men  being  killed,  on  September  3rd, 
the  British  Mercantile  Marine  suffered  no  other  loss  on 
that  day.  Within  twenty-four  hours,  however,  enemy 
submarines  had  obtained  full  compensation  for  this  failure  ; 
three  large  ships  met  their  end  off  the  Fastnet,  the  Cymbe- 
line  (4,505  tons),  the  Mimosa  (3,466  tons),  and  the  Allan 
liner  Hesperian  (10,920  tons). 

In  the  case  of  the  first  ship  six  lives  out  of  a  total  crew 
of  thirty-seven  were  lost  owing  to  the  action  of  the 
enemy  commander.  He  had  kept  the  vessel  under  fire  for 
about  half  an  hour,  and  then  as  the  crew  were  leaving  the 
ship  a  torpedo  was  discharged  which  hit  the  vessel  amid- 
ship  on  the  port  side  under  the  bridge.     One  of  the  boats 


was  smashed  by  the  explosion  and  six  men  were  killed, 
the  remainder  being  fortunately  picked  up  by  the  other 
boat.  For  sixteen  hours  the  survivors  were  buffeted 
about  by  the  waves,  wondering  whether  they  would  ever 
see  land  again.  Five  of  their  number  had  been  injured  by 
the  explosion,  one  of  them  seriously.  The  submarine  had 
made  off  as  soon  as  it  was  certain  that  the  Cymbeline  could 
not  survive.  By  a  happy  chance  these  distressed  mariners 
in  sad  plight  were  observed  by  the  Swedish  barque  Alhatros, 
and  at  last  they  reached  Brandon  Quay.  One  incident 
of  interest  marked  the  destruction  of  the  Mimosa,  one  of 
the  vessels  of  the  Anglo-American  Oil  Company.  When 
the  master  (Mr.  T.  N.  Hugo)  had  taken  to  the  boats, 
the  commander  of  the  submarine,  apparently  feeling  some 
pity  for  his  victims,  cast  adrift  137  miles  S.W.  by  W.  from 
the  Fastnet,  told  Captain  Hugo  that  he  would  tell  the 
first  trawler  he  saw  to  pick  them  up. 

The  sinking  of  the  Hesperian,  a  great  passenger  liner 
with  over  600  persons  on  board,  again  attracted  attention 
to  the  callous  inhumanity  with  which  the  campaign  was 
being  conducted  by  the  enemy.  Only  a  few  days  before 
Count  Bernsdorff,  the  German  Ambassador,  had  assured 
the  United  States  Government  that  "  passenger  liners 
will  not  be  sunk  without  warning  and  without  insuring  the 
safety  of  the  non-combatants  aboard  providing  that  the 
liners  do  not  try  to  escape  or  offer  resistance."  The 
Hesperian  was  nevertheless  sunk.  She  was  outward  bound 
from  Liverpool  to  Quebec  and  Montreal,  with  a  general 
cargo,  and  carried  about  300  passengers.  There  was  no 
suspicion,  therefore,  that  she  had  on  board  either  munitions 
or  troops,  but  nevertheless  she  was  torpedoed  without 
warning.  It  was  a  fortunate  circumstance,  and  to  the 
credit  of  her  owners,  that  she  had  sufficient  lifeboat  accom- 
modation for  more  than  three  times  as  many  persons  as 
were  on  board,  and  that  there  was  a  liberal  supply  of  life- 
buoys and  lifebelts,  otherwise  the  death-roll  would  have 
been  far  heavier  than  it  was. 

The  vessel  was  going  at  full  speed,  zigzagging  on  her 
course,  when  she  was  struck.  That  the  subsequent 
explosion  was  due  to  a  torpedo  and  not  to  a  mine  was 
proved  by  fragments  of  the  missile  which  were  secured  by 
the  master  (Mr.  W.  S.  Main)  and  by  members  of  his  crew. 
The  attack  on  the  Hesperian  was  therefore  a  flagrant  viola- 

36  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH   WATERS        [ck.  i 

tion  of  the  pledge  which  the  enemy  had  so  recently  given 
to  the  United  States.  The  impact  of  the  torpedo  and  the 
explosion  which  followed  stopped  the  vessel,  and  Captain 
Main  sounded  the  boats-station  signal  on  the  steam 
whistle  and  ordered  the  chief  officer  to  get  the  passengers 
into  the  boats.  Of  the  314  passengers  a  large  number 
were  women  and  children,  and  the  order  went  forth, 
"  Women  and  children  first,"  the  crew  being  instructed 
to  stand  by  their  stations.  The  ship,  after  shivering  fore 
and  aft  under  the  impact,  had  listed  ten  degrees  to  the 
starboard  and  sank  by  the  head.  A  column  of  water  and 
debris  was  thrown  up  into  the  air  a  distance  of  about 
100  feet  and  fell  on  to  the  deck  and  bridge.  The  hatches 
on  No.  2  deck  were  blown  up  and  considerable  damage 
was  done  to  the  second  cabin  and  bridge  decks.  For- 
tunately none  of  the  boats  had  been  damaged  or  their 
fittings  injured,  and,  in  spite  of  the  terrifying  experience 
which  had  suddenly  confronted  them,  the  passengers 
evinced  no  signs  of  panic.  They  must  have  realised  that 
they  were  in  desperate  straits,  but  nevertheless  they 
remained  cool  and  collected.  The  boats  were  filled  and 
got  away  safely.  The  torpedo  had  been  discharged  at 
8.30  p.m.,  and  within  an  hour  the  boats  were  clear  of  the 
vessel.  After  the  attack  had  taken  place.  Captain  Main 
had  ordered  an  S.O.S.  call  to  be  sent  out,  and  within  a 
short  time  rescuing  vessels  were  on  the  spot. 

The  master  afterwards  mustered  those  who  remained  on 
board  the  Hesperian  and  found  that,  including  himself, 
there  were  thirteen — three  officers,  three  engineers,  two 
Marconi  operators,  the  boatswain,  the  carpenter,  and 
two  seamen.  The  night  was  far  advanced,  and  the  ship 
was  very  much  down  by  the  head.  There  seemed  a 
chance,  however,  that  she  might  be  saved,  and  continued 
efforts  were  made  to  tow  her  into  Queenstown  from  the 
early  morning  of  September  5th  onwards  by  the  naval 
vessels  which  had  responded  to  the  signal.  During  the 
afternoon  the  liner  became  unmanageable  ;  time  and  again 
the  towing  ropes  carried  away,  and  then  a  southerly  gale 
sprang  up  and  high  seas  were  encountered.  Throughout 
the  long  day  the  master  and  his  companions,  reinforced 
by  some  of  the  crew  who  had  returned  to  the  Hesperian' s 
assistance,  strove  to  save  the  injured  vessel.  As  night 
came  on  the  gale  increased  and  the  seas  rose  higher.     The 

CH.  I]     THE   SINKING   OF   THE  "  HESPERIAN  "        37 

vessel  was  labouring  heavily  and  the  list  had  increased, 
suggesting  that  she  was  gradually  sinking.  Captain  Main 
at  last  came  to  the  conclusion  that  in  the  interests  of  the 
lives  in  his  charge — over  thirty  officers  and  men  who  had 
stood  by  him  on  board  in  the  emergency — it  was  his  duty 
to  order  everyone  to  take  to  the  lifeboats.  He  himself 
at  last  submitted  to  the  inevitable  and  also  took  shelter 
on  board  H.M.S.  Veronica. 

With  searchhghts  playing  upon  the  Hesperian,  the 
Veronica  remained  close  to  the  doomed  ship  throughout 
the  night  of  anxious  watching.  Early  on  the  succeeding 
morning,  although  the  gale  at  sea  had  not  abated,  Captain 
Main  and  ten  of  his  crew  again  boarded  the  Hesperian. 
Their  worst  fears  were  confirmed  ;  the  ship  was  rapidly 
sinking,  and  nothing  could  be  done  to  save  her.  She  went 
down  at  7.47  a.m.  on  September  6th,  within  twelve  minutes 
of  the  master  passing  over  the  side  for  the  last  time.  The 
sinking  of  the  Lusitania,  with  a  loss  of  1,198  lives,  had 
shocked  the  conscience  of  the  world  ;  the  destruction  of 
the  Arabic  had  drawn  from  the  United  States  a  Note  of 
protest  to  Germany;  and  now,  in  defiance  of  the  pledge 
given  by  Count  Bernsdorff,  the  Allan  liner  Hesperian 
had  been  attacked  without  warning  eighty-five  miles  from 
the  nearest  point  of  land  and  thirty-two  lives  had  been 
sacrificed.  It  was  realised  that  the  comparative  smallness 
of  the  death-roll  was  due,  not  to  any  consideration  on  the 
part  of  the  enemy  submarine,  but  rather  to  the  admirable 
construction  of  the  ship,  the  life-saving  appliances  with 
which  she  had  been  provided  by  her  owners,  and  the  calm 
way  in  which  officers  and  men,  as  well  as  the  passengers, 
had  behaved  in  the  great  hour  of  emergency. 

The  spirit  of  desperation  with  which  the  Germans  were 
conducting  the  submarine  campaign  was  again  illustrated 
when  the  loss  of  the  Ashmore  (2,519  tons)  was  reported. 
This  was  a  well-found  vessel  of  Aberdeen  which  had  been 
chartered  by  the  Belgian  Relief  Commission  to  bring  a 
cargo  of  maize  from  Rosario  to  the  distressed  population 
of  the  country  which  the  enemy  had  overrun  in  the  early 
days  of  the  war.  Her  voyage  was  uneventful  as  far  as 
Dover,  where  the  master  (Mr.  G.  A.  Noble)  received 
instructions,  on  resuming  his  passage  to  Rotterdam,  to 
keep  on  a  line  between  Elbow  buoy  and  the  Kentish  Knock 
Lightship.     Captain  Noble,  having  taken  a  pilot  on  board, 

38  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH   WATERS        [ch.  i 

put  out  from  Dover  at  5  a.m.  on  September  12th.  Three 
and  a  half  hours  later,  when  the  Ashmore  was  steaming 
between  the  Kentish  Knock  and  the  Galloper  Lightship, 
the  boatswain,  who  was  on  the  after  deck,  noticed  the  track 
of  a  torpedo  approaching  the  ship.  Before  he  could  give 
the  alarm  the  vessel  was  struck.  Nothing  was  seen  of 
a  submarine,  but  the  naval  authorities  were  satisfied  that 
the  ship  had  not  struck  a  mine,  but  had  been  torpedoed 
without  warning. 

The  stricken  Ashmore  began  at  once  to  settle  down 
after  the  explosion,  which  apparently  had  killed  four 
men  in  the  engine-room  and  stokehold.  Captain  Noble 
tried  to  go  below  to  ascertain  the  fate  of  these  men, 
but  he  found  that  the  water  had  already  risen  to  a  height 
of  about  20  feet,  while  steam  was  escaping  from  the  boilers. 
Everything  suggested  that  the  four  men  had  been  killed 
outright.  The  majority  of  the  crew  were  ordered  away  in 
the  two  lifeboats,  but  Captain  Noble  with  the  second 
officer,  the  carpenter,  and  steward  remained  on  board. 
The  master  went  in  search  of  the  ship's  papers,  but  his 
cabin  had  been  completely  wrecked.  The  ship  had  taken 
a  heavy  list  by  this  time,  so  at  last  Captain  Noble  and  his 
companions  passed  over  into  one  of  the  lifeboats  which 
had  been  called  alongside,  and  ten  minutes  later  nothing 
was  to  be  seen  of  the  Ashmore.  The  crew  were  fortunate 
in  being  almost  immediately  afterwards  rescued  by  mine- 
sweepers, and  were  soon  afterwards  landed  at  Chatham 
by  a  patrol-steamer  to  which  they  had  been  transferred. 

Three  days  later  the  Patagonia  (6,011  tons)  was  also 
torpedoed  without  warning.  She  was  on  passage  from 
Odessa  to  Nicolaieff  in  ballast,  and  within  an  hour 
and  a  half  after  leaving  port  she  was  struck  aft.  The 
second  officer,  who  was  on  watch  at  the  time,  saw  the 
torpedo  approaching  and  instantly  ordered  the  helm  to 
be  put  hard  aport.  If  it  had  not  been  for  this  prompt 
order  the  ship  would  have  been  hit  amidships.  The 
master  (Mr.  D.  T.  Davies)  was  well  supported  by  his  officers 
and  crew  in  the  emergency,  with  the  result  that  no  lives 
were  lost.  A  similar  immunity  from  casualties  fortunately 
attended  the  destruction  of  three  ships  on  September 
23rd  off  the  Fastnet.  At  8.30  a.m.  the  Anglo-Columhian 
(4,792  tons)  was  nearing  the  end  of  her  voyage  from  Mon- 
treal to  Avonmouth  with  a  large  number  of  horses  when 


she  was  shelled  by  a  submarine  and  eventually  sunk. 
Early  on  the  same  afternoon  the  Chancellor  (4,586  tons) 
shared  the  same  fate  in  this  locality,  though  the  master 
(Mr.  R.  N.  Donald)  put  on  all  speed  in  the  attempt  to 
escape.  He  was  carrying  a  general  cargo  from  Liverpool 
to  New  Orleans,  and  in  view  of  the  slowness  of  his  own  ship 
and  the  speed  of  the  enemy  his  position  from  the  first  was 
almost  hopeless.  That  evening  the  master  (Mr.  R.  Steel) 
of  the  Hesione  (3,663  tons)  noticed  a  ship's  lifeboat 
crowded  with  men  evidently  in  distress.  This  proved  to 
be  a  lifeboat  of  the  Chancellor  in  charge  of  the  chief  officer 
(Mr.  R.  H.  Herbert).  Captain  Steel's  natural  instinct  was 
to  bear  down  on  the  boat  and  rescue  the  men.  This  he 
did.  He  then  reduced  speed  in  order  to  effect  the  rescue. 
Mr.  Herbert,  warned  by  the  fact  that  the  submarine  was 
still  on  the  surface  and  conscious  of  the  heavy  price  which 
might  be  exacted  of  the  rescuing  vessel,  signalled  to  the 
Hesione  to  proceed.  By  this  time  Captain  Steel  had  also 
sighted  the  submarine  and  realised  the  danger  into  which 
he  had  run  by  acting  in  accordance  with  the  code  of  the 
brotherhood  of  the  sea.  He  called  down  to  the  engine- 
room  for  all  possible  speed  and  thus  brought  the  submarine 
right  astern  of  him.  A  strong  wind  was  blowing  and  the 
seas  were  running  high,  and  try  as  they  might  the  engine- 
room  staff  could  not  obtain  more  than  7  knots,  whereas 
the  Hesione  was  capable,  under  more  favourable  conditions, 
of  10^  knots.  The  submarine  opened  fire,  but  Captain 
Steel  still  held  on  his  course.  At  length  he  realised  that 
the  contest  was  hopeless  and  he  ordered  the  ship  to  stop. 
In  a  short  time  the  crew  had  taken  to  the  boats,  and  then 
the  Hesione  was  sunk  by  gunfire.  The  firing  had  attracted 
patrol-vessels  to  the  spot  and  both  crews  were  rescued. 

With  the  sinking  of  the  Urbino  (6,651  tons)  off  the  Bishop 
Rock  on  September  24th,  the  submarine  campaign  in  the 
waters  round  the  British  Isles  was  suspended  for  the  time 
being.  The  American  protests  which  followed  the  sinking 
of  the  Arabic  and  the  Hesperian  were  too  serious  to  be 
ignored,  and  during  the  months  of  October  and  November 
not  a  single  merchant  ship  was  either  molested  or  sunk, 
and  it  was  not  until  the  end  of  the  first  quarter  of  the  fol- 
lowing year  that  merchant  seamen  in  these  areas  were 
again  confronted  with  this  particular  form  of  attack. 
The  enemy  had  decided  to  shift  the  scene  of  his  operations 

40  SUBMARINES   IN   BRITISH  WATERS        [ch.  i 

to  other  waters  which  promised  to  yield  good  results  in 
association  with  less  chances  of  becoming  embroiled  with 
the  United  States  or  of  arousing  other  neutrals  to  com- 
bined action.  The  submarine  campaign  was  forthwith 
transferred  to  the  Mediterranean,  in  which  few  ships 
carrying  American  passengers  were  likely  to  be  encountered. 

This  decision  represented  the  triumph,  if  only  temporary 
triumph,  of  British  merchant  seamen.  They  had  refused 
at  Germany's  dictation,  and  in  spite  of  Germany's  unprece- 
dented acts,  to  keep  out  of  that  part  of  the  "  war  zone  " 
which  embraced  the  waters  round  the  British  Isles.  If 
they  had,  cravenly,  avoided  the  manifold  perils  of  which 
they  had  had  such  ample  evidence,  the  enemy  would  have 
encountered  none  of  the  difficulties  which  arose  with 
neutrals,  and  particularly  with  the  United  States,  and  he 
would  have  won  the  war  owing  to  the  starvation  of  the 
people  of  the  United  Kingdom,  and  the  cutting  of  the  com- 
munications with  the  armies  engaged  in  Belgium  and 
France.  But,  owing  to  the  dogged  persistence  of  British 
merchant  seamen,  Germany's  diplomatic  troubles  in- 
creased. On  June  6th  orders  had  been  issued  that  no 
large  passenger  ship,  whatever  her  flag,  should  be 
attacked.  As  we  have  seen,  these  instructions  were  not 
obeyed.  Immediately  after  the  sinking  of  the  Arabic, 
Count  Bernsdorff  informed  the  United  States  Government 
— to  the  great  indignation  of  the  German  naval  authorities 
responsible  for  the  operations  at  sea,  but  with  the  full 
approval  of  the  Imperial  Chancellor — that  the  submarine 
commander  who  had  been  responsible  for  that  loss  would 
be  punished.  The  differences  of  opinion  between  the 
naval  and  civil  elements  in  Germany  were  sharply  accen- 
tuated by  this  action.  On  August  27th  instructions  were 
issued  that  no  further  submarines  were  to  be  sent  to  sea 
for  attacking  merchantmen  until  the  diplomatic  position 
had  been  cleared  up. 

Three  days  later  it  w^as  decided  that  until  further 
notice  no  small  passenger  ships  were  to  be  sunk  without 
warning  and  without  steps  being  taken  to  rescue  the  crew. 
On  the  1st  of  the  following  month  the  Naval  Secretary 
telegraphed  to  the  Chief  of  the  Cabinet,  for  submission 
to  the  Emperor,  that  "  this  order  could  only  be 
carried  out  at  the  utmost  danger  to  the  submarines,  for 
which   he    could    not    be    responsible."      He    asked    per- 


mission  to  resign  his  office,  but  this  was  refused.  On 
September  18th  the  decision  was  reached  that  the 
"  general  position  necessitated  that  for  the  next  few  weeks 
all  risks  should  be  avoided  of  breaches  of  regulations  laid 
down  for  the  campaign."  i  Orders  M^ere  accordingly 
given  to  suspend  all  submarine  activities  of  any  sort  on 
the  west  coast  of  the  British  Isles  and  in  the  English  Chan- 
nel, and  to  carry  on  operations  in  the  North  Sea  only  in 
accordance  with  the  ordinary  prize  regulations. 

1  My  Memoirs,  by  Grand- Admiral  von  Tirpitz. 



Before  the  German  Emperor's  decision  was  reached  to 
limit  submarine  operations,  so  as  not  to  arouse  further 
American  opposition,  the  intensity  of  the  enemy's  attack 
on  merchant  shipping  was  imposing  heavy  burdens  on 
the  AuxiHary  Patrol.  During  the  month  of  August  1915 
shipping  was  being  destroyed  off  Ushant,  off  the  Norfolk 
coast,  off  the  Scillies,  off  the  south-west  coast  of  Ireland, 
off  St.  Abb's  Head,  off  the  Lofoten  Islands,  and  the  Old 
Head  of  Kinsale,  in  the  ^gean,  off  the  Tuskar,  in  the  Irish 
Sea  and  elsewhere.  The  campaign  had  assumed  a  threefold 
character.  First,  there  was  the  steady  submarine  warfare 
going  on  in  the  North  Sea  and  off  the  western  coasts  as 
a  matter  of  almost  established  routine.  Secondly,  a  con- 
centration was  being  made  on  what  may  be  described  as 
the  south-western  approaches,  i.e.  the  track  followed  by 
shipping  entering  the  English  or  Irish  Channel  from 
the  Atlantic  or  Bay  of  Biscay.  Finally,  there  were  the 
episodic  attacks  by  submarines  on  their  way  out  from 
Germany  to  the  Mediterranean,  where,  as  will  be  seen 
later,  the  enemy  was  concentrating  his  forces. 

Everywhere  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  was  working  at  its 
maximum  efficiency.  New  plans  were  continually  being 
tested  in  order  to  defeat  the  enemy.  In  the  Irish  Sea, 
for  instance,  three  armed  yachts,  the  Lady  Blanche, 
Sabrina,  and  Bacchante,  were  patrolling  between  the  Tuskar 
and  Bardsey  Island.  Between  the  Tuskar  and  the  Smalls 
nets  were  being  towed  by  a  long  line  of  drifters,  reinforced 
by  half  a  dozen  armed  trawlers.  Four  other  units  of 
six  trawlers  were  patrolling  the  area  between  Youghal- 
Tuskar-Bristol-Channel-Scillies,  with  the  armed  yacht 
Jeanette  exercising  a  general  supervision  and  the  armed 
yacht  Sapphire,  patrolling  between  Minehead  and  Trevose 
Head,  acting  as  a  wireless  link.  A  new  Commander-in- 
Chief,  Vice-Admiral  Sir  Lewis  Bayly,  had  been  appointed 



to  take  charge  of  the  Irish  area.  This  officer,  who  had  had 
experience  both  in  the  Grand  Fleet  and  as  President  of  the 
War  College,  went  to  Queenstown  when  the  south-western 
approaches  were  becoming  the  principal  area  of  the  enemy's 
activity.  His  was  a  difficult  task,  made  none  the  easier 
by  the  fact  that  his  forces  consisted  only  of  a  small  flotilla 
of  the  newly  built  sloops  (originally  intended  for  mine- 
sweeping),  in  addition  to  trawlers,  drifters,  armed  yachts 
and  motor-boats. 

It  is  impossible  to  deal  at  length  with  every  incident  of 
the  operations  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  during  this  period, 
but  it  is  essential  to  convey  a  correct  appreciation  of  the 
character  and  extent  of  the  German  operations  in  home 
waters.     The   most   experienced   submarine   officers   were 
doing  their  utmost  to  support  German  confidence.     U22 
left  Borkum  at  the  beginning  of  August  and  sank  the 
armed  merchant  cruiser  India  off  Westfjord,  Norway,  on 
August    8th.      On   August   4th    U27    left   for   the    Irish 
coast,  but  was  sunk  by  the  decoy  ship  Baralong  on  the 
19th.     U38  also  proceeded  to  the  south-west  approaches 
and  within  five  days  sank  twenty-two  cargo  vessels,  five 
trawlers,  and  three  sailing-ships,  chiefly  by  gunfire  during 
thick  weather.     On  August  4th  U34  and  U35  left  Heligo- 
land for  the  Mediterranean  with  orders  to  wage  war  only 
as  far  as  the  latitude  of  the  English  Channel  and  then 
proceed  without  delay  for  Cattaro,  which  was  reached  on 
August  23rd.     On  August  5th  U24   and  U25  were   also 
operating,    the    former    proceeding   round    the    north   of 
Scotland  and  the  west  and  south  of  Ireland,  up  the  Irish 
Sea,   sinking,   as  has  been  stated,  the  White   Star  liner 
Arabic.      Before  the   end    of  the   month   U33   and  U39 
were    ordered    to   leave    Germany    for   the   Dardanelles, 
spreading    destruction    around    them    on    passage.     The 
former  passed  out  of  Borkum  on  August  28th,  north  about, 
sank  a  steamer  off   Cape   Wrath,   then  came  down  the 
west  coast   of  Ireland  on   September   4th   and   sank  the 
Cymbeline  off  the  Fastnet.     On  her  southerly  progress  she 
also  sank  the  Mimosa,  the  Storcsand,  a  Norwegian  sailing- 
ship,  and  finally  the  John  Hardie,  ninety-eight  miles  W. 
by  S.   of  Cape  Finisterre  on  September  6th.     She  then 
continued   her   voyage   without   further   incident,    passed 
through  the  Gibraltar  Straits  and,  having  arrived  in  the 
Mediterranean,  was  sighted  and  attacked  by  H.M.  Torpedo- 

44         AUXILIARY  CRAFT  AND   SUBIVIARINES    [ch,  ii 

Boat  95  six  times  on  September  9th,  when  fifty  miles 
west  of  Alboran  island  ;  but  she  reached  Cattaro  on  Sep- 
tember 16th,  and  then  began  to  carry  out  the  task  for 
which  she  had  been  selected — the  sinking  of  enemy  shipping 
in  the  Mediterranean.  Similarly  U39  left  Germany  on 
August  27th,  proceeded  north  about  on  September  2nd, 
attacked  the  sailing-ship  William  T.  Lewis  ninety-five  miles 
west  of  the  Fastnet,  and  then  carried  on  for  the  Straits 
of  Gibraltar  without  further  adventure.  Having  entered 
the  Mediterranean,  this  vessel  was  sighted  on  September 
8th  about  130  miles  east  of  Cartagena  going  south-east. 
She  sank  several  more  vessels,  and  reached  Cattaro  on 
September  13th.  Such,  then,  was  the  new  position  at  sea. 
The  solution  of  the  submarine  problem  had  become  more 
difficult  than  ever,  apart  from  the  increasing  trouble  due 
to  mines  ;  off  the  south-east  coast  of  England  UC  1,  3, 
5,  6,  and  7  were  particularly  busy  mine-laying. 

In  these  new  conditions  the  trawlers  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  were  leading  a  varied  life.  Some  Portsmouth 
trawlers  had  to  be  used  for  escort  work  across  the  English 
Channel  owing  to  the  scarcity  of  destroyers  ;  off  the 
Lowestoft  coast  other  trawlers  were  employed  in  protecting 
the  "  War  Channel,"  along  which  sixty  merchant  ships, 
on  an  average,  daily  passed  escorted  by  these  fishing-craft ; 
and  wherever  submarines  were  likely  to  operate,  drifters 
laid  their  nets.  Even  when  patrol-vessels  returned  to 
port,  there  was  frequently  no  rest  for  them.  On  August 
10th,  Just  after  midnight,  a  Zeppelin  appeared  over  Dover 
harbour  dropping  bombs,  one  of  which  exploded  on 
striking  the  water  and  damaged  the  armed  trawler 
Equinox,  then  lying  at  anchor,  hitting  her  in  forty-three 
places.  Three  of  her  crew  who  were  in  their  bunks  asleep 
were  wounded.  Another  armed  trawler,  the  Cleon,  not 
far  off,  was  also  damaged. 

The  alertness  of  the  vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  made 
the  submarine's  life  more  exciting  than  comfortable. 
Owing  to  the  enemy's  superiority  in  speed  on  the  surface 
and  his  more  powerful  guns,  it  often  enough  happened  that 
the  submarine  escaped  ;  but  if  the  trawler  or  yacht  could 
not  claim  to  have  sunk  the  U-boat,  at  least  many  a  mer- 
chant ship  was  spared  from  destruction  owing  to  the 
enemy's  attention  being  distracted.  An  incident  in  the 
summer  of  1915  illustrated  this  fact.      On  August  14th 

CH.  II]        THE   SAVING   OF  THE  "  MAXTON "  45 

the  trawler  Amadavat  (Skipper  P.  P.  Glanville), 
based  on  Milford,  was  patrolling  about  3.45  p.m.  ten  miles 
south-south-east  of  the  Tuskar.  She  was  armed  with  one 
6-pounder.  A  submarine  was  seen  a  mile  away  on  the 
port  bow.  The  Amadavat  proceeded  at  full  speed  (8  knots) 
towards  her  and  fired  a  couple  of  shots.  This  made  the 
enemy  submerge.  The  Amadavat  then  headed  for  the  line 
of  drifters  and  warned  them  of  the  danger  in  which  they 
were  standing,  and  afterwards  proceeded  north-north-west 
towards  the  position  where  the  U-boat  had  last  been  seen. 
The  enemy  craft  was  discovered  half  a  mile  astern  of  a  big 
steamer.  The  trawler  again  opened  fire,  and  after  four 
shots  the  submarine  disappeared.  Skipper  Glanville  then 
wisely  surmised  that  the  enemy  would  appear  the  next  time 
ahead  of  the  steamer,  so  the  gunner  of  the  Amadavat  was 
ordered  to  train  his  6-pounder  on  the  bow  of  the  merchant- 
man. The  submarine  did  appear  as  expected,  whereupon 
the  trawler  fired  two  more  shots  which  dropped  very  close, 
causing  the  submarine  to  alter  course  away  from  the 
trawler.  The  Amadavat  continued  firing,  the  third  shot 
smothering  the  enemy  conning-tower  with  spray.  After 
this  narrow  escape  the  submarine  disappeared.  The  trawler 
forthwith  picked  up  the  steamer's  boats  and  resumed 
the  patrol.  By  persistency  and  eagerness,  combined  with 
courage  and  common  sense.  Skipper  Glanville  had  un- 
doubtedly saved  this  vessel — the  Maxton.  He  was  after- 
wards commended  for  his  promptness  and  foresight,  even 
though  the  submarine  had  escaped. 

Curiously  enough,  on  the  next  afternoon  a  somewhat 
similar  incident  occurred  in  the  North  Sea.  Near  Smith's 
Knoll,  off  the  East  Anglian  coast,  the  four  Grimsby  paddle- 
steamers,  Brighton  Queen,  Westward  Ho  !,  Glen  Avon,  and 
Cambridge,  were  engaged  mine-sweeping.  Not  far  away 
were  some  Lowestoft  smacks,  which  had  become  favourite 
targets  for  the  enemy  submarines.  Suddenly,  at  2.15  p.m., 
the  paddlers  sighted  a  submarine  of  the  UB  type.  Sweeps 
were  immediately  slipped,  and  the  once  familiar  excursion 
steamers  chased  the  submarine,  opening  a  brisk  fire  with 
their  guns.  On  board  the  Brighton  Queen  it  was  thought 
that  the  third  round  hit  the  enemy's  conning-tower.  It 
is  amusing  to  picture  an  excursion  paddle-steamer  putting 
a  warship  to  flight.  That  is,  however,  what  happened. 
This  prompt  action,  though  it  did  not  lead  to  the  destruc- 

46         AUXILIARY    CRAFT  AND   SUBMARINES  [ch.  ii 

tion  of  the  German  submarine,  certainly  saved  the  fishing- 

But  the  submarine  had  not  made  good  her  escape,  for  on 
that  same  Saturday  night  she  fell  to  one  of  the  disguised 
Lowestoft  fishing- smacks  to  which  reference  has  already 
been  made.  This  was  the  ketch  Inverlyon,  which  had 
been  armed  with  a  3-pounder.  Her  crew  comprised  her 
fishing  skipper  and  three  hands,  all  enrolled  temporarily 
in  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve  (Trawler  Section).  Her 
fighting  crew  consisted  of  a  gunner  R.N.  (Mr.  E.  M. 
Jehan),  who  had  with  him  four  R.N.  ratings.  At  8.20 
p.m.  this  sailing-smack  was  trawling  three  miles  north  by 
east  of  Smith's  Knoll  spar  buoy  when  she  sighted  U4. 
When  the  enemy  had  got  within  thirty  yards  the  German 
ensign  was  observed,  and  an  officer  was  heard  shouting 
something  about  "  boat  " — most  probably  ordering  the 
Inverlyon  to  launch  her  boat  and  come  alongside.  The 
submarine  then  stopped.  The  smack  promptly  hoisted 
the  White  Ensign  and  Mr.  Jehan  discharged  his  revolver 
at  the  German  officer,  this  being  the  signal  for  the  naval 
ratings  to  open  fire  from  the  3-pounder.  Nine  rounds 
were  promptly  got  off,  of  which  the  first  and  third  shots 
were  thought  to  have  pierced  the  centre  of  the  conning- 
tower  and  exploded  inside  ;  the  second  shot  cleared 
away  the  after  part  of  the  conning-tower,  as  well  as  the 
German  ensign.  The  German  officer  fell  overboard  on 
the  starboard  side,  probably  dead.  The  submarine  then 
came  round  the  Inverlyon's  side  with  the  tide,  so  that 
she  was  distant  only  about  ten  yards.  At  this  extremely 
short  range  six  more  shots  were  fired  from  the  smack, 
the  first  striking  the  conning-tower,  the  second  and  fourth 
going  over  it,  and  the  third,  fifth,  and  sixth  hitting  the 
hull.  The  submarine  went  down  at  a  very  sharp 
angle,  and  it  was  confidently  assumed  that  she  had  been 
fatally  injured.  The  bodies  of  three  men,  who  were  still 
outside  when  the  U-boat  submerged,  came  to  the  surface  ; 
one  of  the  Germans  was  still  alive  and  was  shouting 
appealingly  to  be  rescued.  Skipper  Phillips,  in  the 
Inverlyon,  with  instinctive  gallantry  and  humanity,  un- 
dressed and  swam  off  with  a  lifebuoy,  but  the  man  sank 
before  he  could  reach  him.  The  Admiralty  awarded  Mr. 
Jehan  a  Distinguished  Service  Cross  for  this  smart  and 
successful  action. 

cii.  ii]  SUBMARINES  OFF   IRELAND  47 

A  short,  sharp  submarine  raid  off  the  Irish  coast,  lasting 
from  December  25th  to  December  28th,  occurred  with 
dramatic  suddenness  at  the  end  of  1915.  Comparative 
peace  had  settled  down  since  September,  and  this  outburst 
was  an  unpleasant  surprise.  If  enemy  craft  on  their  way 
to  the  Mediterranean  had  imagined  that  the  vigilance 
of  the  patrol  craft  would  be  relaxed  during  Christ- 
mastide,  they  were  mistaken.  At  1.35  p.m.  on  Christmas 
Day,  when  about  nine  miles  W.  by  S.  of  the  Smalls, 
the  Van  Stirum,  used  as  an  Admiralty  transport,  was 
attacked.  She  endeavoured  to  escape  and  sent  out  dis- 
tress calls.  At  2.20  p.m.  she  wirelessed  the  message : 
"  Done  for  ;  pick  me  up  five  miles  south  of  the  Smalls.'* 
One  shell  had  struck  her  on  the  starboard  quarter  and 
another  had  brought  down  her  aerials.  At  2.35  p.m.  she 
was  abandoned  and  the  submarine  torpedoed  her.  The 
torpedo  passed  under  a  partly  lowered  boat  and  struck  the 
ship  abreast  the  engine-room,  blowing  the  American 
boatswain  to  pieces.  At  4.15  p.m.  the  submarine  returned 
to  the  ship  and  shelled  her.  At  this  point  the  enemy 
noticed  three  fishing-vessels  approaching  at  high  speed, 
the  first  vessel  being  the  Belgian  trawler  Nadine,  which 
was  fishing  out  of  Milford.  Her  skipper,  on  hearing  the 
firing,  hauled  up  his  trawl,  steamed  in  the  direction  of  the 
sound,  and  w^as  able  to  take  on  board  the  entire  crew  of 
the  Van  Stirum,  whom  he  brought  into  Milford  just  before 
midnight.  It  was  pure  chance  that  the  Belgian  was 
fishing  in  that  neighbourhood,  but  it  was  very  fortunate 
for  the  men  of  the  merchantman. 

The  next  thing  was  to  find  the  Van  Stirum,  if  still  afloat. 
At  8.30  next  morning  the  trawler  Evangel  (Lieutenant 
W.  A.  Peter,  R.N.R.)  discovered  her  with  a  heavy  list 
eighteen  miles  south-east  of  the  Tuskar,  a  pathetic  derelict. 
A  fine  effort  was  made  to  save  the  ship.  The  Evangel 
launched  her  boat  and  put  four  of  her  men  on  board  the 
Van  Stirum  to  handle  the  tow  ropes.  There  was  no  steam 
for  the  steering-wheel  or  means  of  putting  in  the  hand- 
steering  gear,  so  the  vessel  could  not  be  controlled.  At 
10  a.m.  the  drifter  Lupina  arrived,  together  with  her  group 
of  Milford  drifters.  These  craft  were  ordered  to  act  as 
follows  :  One  was  directed  to  proceed  to  Rosslare  so  as 
to  get  a  report  through  to  Admiral  Dare  at  Milford  ;  one 
was  to  cruise  towards  the  Tuskar  and  one  towards  Milford 

II— 5 

48       AUXILIARY  CRAFT  AND   SUBMARINES      [ch.  ii 

to  obtain  towing  assistance.  At  10.20  a.m.  the  trawler 
Loch  Awe  came  on  the  scene  and  took  a  tow  rope  from  the 
Van  Stirum's  quarter  in  order  to  steer  her,  but  this  rope 
soon  parted.  The  Loch  Awe  then  changed  positions  with 
the  Evangel,  which  had  been  towing  ahead. 

The  Evangel  had  buoyed  the  wire  tow  rope  for  the 
Lujnna  to  pick  up,  but  the  latter  in  doing  so  unfortun- 
ately fouled  her  own  propeller.  This  was  cut  clear  and  a 
rope  was  then  taken  from  the  derelict's  quarter.  About 
11.80  a.m.  the  Loch  Awe  and  Lujnna  were  towing  ahead 
with  the  Evangel  steering  astern,  the  intention  being  to 
make  the  Blackwater,  on  the  Irish  coast.  At  4  p.m.,  after 
repeatedly  carrying  away  wires,  the  disabled  ship  fouled 
her  propeller.  Two  hours  later  another  vessel  of  the 
Auxiliary  Patrol,  the  Osprey,  arrived  and  managed  to  get 
a  wire  from  forward. 

At  midnight  the  wind  freshened,  with  rain  and 
increasing  sea,  and  the  Van  Stirum  fell  into  the  trough 
of  the  sea,  while  the  Evangel  repeatedly  parted  her  wires  in 
a  vain  attempt  to  keep  the  ship  end  on  to  the  waves.  By 
3  a.m.  there  was  a  strong  south-east  wind  and  rough  sea, 
and  by  the  look  of  things  the  conditions  were  going  to  get 
much  worse.  At  6  a.m.  the  Evangel  parted  her  last  wire 
and  informed  the  Osprey  of  the  fact,  reporting  that  the 
derelict  was  in  a  perilous  condition.  The  Evangel  then 
returned  to  the  stricken  vessel  and,  finding  that  she  was 
likely  to  sink  at  any  moment,  endeavoured  to  go  alongside 
and  take  the  men  off  from  the  quarter.  Owing  to  the 
heavy  sea  running  this  was  not  successful :  in  fact  the 
EvangeVs  starboard  bow  collided  so  heavily  with  the 
Van  Stiruni's  quarter  as  to  start  some  of  the  trawler's 
rivets.  Matters  now  became  critical.  The  Evangel 
launched  her  boat  and  by  means  of  a  heaving  line  was 
able  to  pass  this  boat  alongside  the  derelict.  The  latter's 
forward  bulkhead  had  now  collapsed,  so  that  she  had 
sunk  by  the  head  and  remained  with  her  nose  on  the 
bottom  and  her  stern  in  the  air  for  about  a  minute.  She 
finally  disappeared  at  7.10  a.m.  This  incident  occurred 
about  eight  miles  S.E.  by  S.  of  South  Arklow  lightship. 
The  Evangel  then  proceeded  to  search  for  the  Van  Stirurn's 
boat  and  found  her  half  full  of  water,  but  she  also 
found  that  the  men  had  fortunately  managed  to  get  into 
her  just  in  the  nick  of  time.     The  sea  was  running  so 


wildly  that  it  was  impossible  to  pick  the  boat  up,  so 
after  getting  the  men  safely  on  board  it  was  abandoned. 
The  attempt  to  salve  the  steamer  had  failed,  but  it  had 
been  a  glorious  failure,  which  only  the  bad  weather  had 
spoiled,  A  letter  of  appreciation  came  from  the  Admiralty 
to  the  officers  and  men  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  who  had  so 
nearly  succeeded  in  their  purpose. 

Similar  misfortune  frustrated  the  efforts  farther  round 
the  coast  to  rob  the  enemy  of  the  fruits  of  his  campaign. 
At  6.30  a.m.  on  December  28th  an  S.O.S.  call  was  received 
at  Queenstown  from  the  oil  tanker  El  Zorro  off  the  Old 
Head  of  Kinsale.  She  was  full  of  oil,  badly  needed  for 
the  prosecution  of  the  war.  She  had  safely  crossed  the 
Atlantic,  but  had  been  torpedoed  in  sight  of  port.  The 
armed  yacht  Greta  and  a  couple  of  obsolete  torpedo-boats 
were  at  once  dispatched  to  the  scene,  but  by  this  time  the 
submarine  had  made  off  westward.  Two  tugs  were  sent 
out,  but  could  not  make  much  headway  owing  to  the  sea. 
That  night  it  blew  a  gale.  The  El  Zorro  anchored 
and  the  crew  were  taken  off  during  the  night  by  the 
trawler  Freesia.  The  gale  increased  and  no  further  steps 
could  be  taken  to  salve  the  ship.  The  El  Zorro  dragged 
her  anchor,  and  went  ashore  a  little  way  west  of  Queens- 
town.  Still  pursuing  her  way  westward  down  the  coast, 
the  submarine  three  hours  later  was  seen  by  another  oiler, 
the  Viturvia,  but  fortunately  the  enemy  did  not  molest 
her.  At  8  a.m.  (December  28th)  the  light  cruiser 
Adventure,  with  Admiral  Sir  Lewis  Bayly  himself  on 
board,  had  left  Queenstown  and  proceeded  down  the 
coast  to  hunt  the  submarine  between  Kinsale  and  the 
Fastnet.  At  12,45  p,m.  the  Adventure  picked  up  an 
S.O.S.  from  the  Leyland  liner  Huronian,  proceeded 
towards  her  at  22  knots,  closed  her  about  1  p,m,,  and 
found  that  she  had  been  torpedoed.  The  Adventure 
then  searched  the  vicinity  and  undoubtedly  frightened 
the  enemy  away,  with  the  result  that  the  Huronian  was 
successfully  escorted  by  sloops  and  the  trawler  Bempton 
into  Berehaven,  where  she  was  eventually  patched  up 
sufficiently  for  her  to  proceed  to  Liverpool  with  her  valuable 
cargo  of  cotton  and  grain. 


THE    fishermen's    ORDEAL 

While  passenger  ships,  cargo  liners,  and  tramps  were 
maintaining  the  country's  oversea  communications,  the 
hardy  seamen  engaged  in  the  fishing  industry  continued 
to  ply  their  trade  round  the  British  coasts  and  farther 
afield.  In  the  year  1913  the  harvest  of  the  sea  had 
amounted  to  1,202,453  tons,  exclusive  of  salmon  and  shell- 
fish. The  crowded  population  of  the  British  Isles  would 
have  been  reduced  to  sore  straits  in  the  matter  of  food  if 
supplies  of  fish  had  been  entirely  cut  off  after  the  out- 
break of  war.  As  has  been  recorded,  the  Admiralty  at  an 
early  stage  in  the  contest  realised  the  value  of  fishing- 
craft,  with  their  experienced  crews,  as  supports  of  the 
Royal  Navy,  and  gradually  built  up  the  Auxiliary  Patrol. 
The  crews  of  those  vessels  which  remained  free  to  continue 
their  fishing  operations  were  rendering  no  mean  service 
to  the  community  in  supplying  it  with  good  food,  as  was 
generally  recognised  at  the  time,  but  there  was  little  appre- 
ciation of  the  fact  that  the  fishing-craft,  in  pursuing  their 
peaceful  functions,  were  not  only  running  great  risks, 
but  were  promoting  the  common  cause. 

The  fine  spirit  exhibited  by  the  fishermen  and  the 
utility  of  their  craft  were  fully  appreciated  by  the  enemy. 
In  the  middle  of  June  1915  a  German  retired  admiral 
reviewed  the  situation  at  sea  in  the  Vossische  Zeitung,  and 
advocated  the  indiscriminate  destruction  of  British  fishing- 
vessels  on  the  ground  that  they  formed  an  important 
auxiliary  arm  of  the  Royal  Navy,  and  he  added,  with 
truth,  that  most  of  the  nation's  steam  trawlers  were  already 
in  the  service  of  the  Admiralty.  But  it  was  not  merely 
the  craft  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  which  greatly  alarmed 
the  U-boats.  The  unarmed  and  uncommissioned  trawlers, 
while  fishing  or  on  voyage  between  their  fishing-grounds 
and  home  ports,  proved  an  increasing  embarrassment,  often 



causing  the  German  submarine  officers  to  break  off  a  fight 
and  even  run  away  on  some  occasions.  It  was  one  of  the 
surprises  of  the  war  that,  as  a  rule,  U-boats  attacked 
trawlers  with  a  conspicuous  lack  of  determination.  There 
were  some  outstanding  exceptions,  but  these  serve  only  to 
accentuate  the  cautious  tactics  usually  employed.  It  might 
have  been  thought  that,  since  they  could  sink  passenger 
ships  with  such  ease,  they  would  have  made  bolder  efforts 
to  destroy  the  small  fisher  vessels.  But  it  was  the  mobility 
of  the  latter,  and  the  realisation  that  the  trawler's  steel 
forefoot  represented  an  effective  weapon  for  ramming, 
that  made  the  enemy  play  for  safety  and  rely  on  long-dis- 
tance attack. 

The  fishing-trawler  was  otherwise  defenceless.  If  the 
enemy,  by  skilful  manoeuvring,  evaded  those  defensive- 
offensive  tactics,  the  fishermen  had  to  rely  for  safety  on 
their  own  personal  skill  and  seamanship.  As  the  trawler 
was  not  a  fighting  ship,  but  was  at  sea  solely  for  the  purpose 
of  bringing  fish  to  market,  the  first  duty  of  the  crew  in 
the  presence  of  a  submarine  was  to  save  the  ship.  Thus 
it  was  with  the  fishing-trawler  Phosbe,  which  had  left 
I  Fleetwood  bound    for  the   Iceland   fishing-grounds.     On 

June  18th,  while  passing  Barra  Head,  she  was  stopped 
by  a  patrol-boat  and  warned  that  submarines  were  about. 
The  Phoebe's  skipper  (Mr.  J.  W.  Golding)  therefore 
doubled  the  lookout.  In  the  early  hours  of  the  next 
morning  he  was  again  stopped  by  a  patrol-boat  off  St. 
Kilda,  and  informed  that  two  vessels  had  been  sunk  off 
the  Butt  of  Lewis.  The  Phoebe  continued  her  voyage, 
laying  a  course  for  Iceland,  and  after  steaming  another 
fifty-five  miles  by  the  log  a  suspicious  object  was  sighted. 
It  was  now  8.20  a.m.  and  the  mate  was  in  the  wheel-house. 
He  did  not  waste  time  in  speculation,  but  promptly  called 
the  skipper  from  his  cabin,  telling  him  that  he  had  sighted 
what  he  took  to  be  a  submarine  about  a  mile  and  a  half 
to  the  eastward,  with  periscope  and  conning-tower  show- 
ing and  hull  awash.  The  submarine  was  heading  north- 
north-west  and  the  trawler  N.  J  E. 

Skipper  Golding  spoke  down  the  tube  to  the  chief  en- 
gineer and,  directing  him  to  give  the  trawler  all  possible 
steam,  he  altered  course  so  as  to  go  head-on  for  the  enemy's 
conning-tower.  The  submarine  then  steered  more  westerly, 
and    away   went   the    Phoebe   likewise   for   about   twenty 

52  THE   FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [ch.  m 

minutes,  the  U-boat  in  the  meantime  gradually  rising  to  the 
surface.     The  enemy  next  hauled  off  to  the  southward, 
stopped,  and  at  a  distance  of  a  mile  opened  fire  ;   the  first 
shell   dropped   about   fifty  yards   short   on  the  trawler's 
starboard  bow.     Skipper  Golding's  duty  now  was  obvious. 
His  ship  was  unarmed  and,  if  he  remained  where  he  was, 
she  would  almost  certainly  be  sunk.     Therefore,  having 
failed  to  ram  the  enemy,  he  used  his  utmost  endeavours 
to    save    his    owner's    property.      It    was    a    fine    clear 
morning,  and   he  could    see   the   smoke    of   a   couple    of 
vessels  to  the  eastward  and  another  couple  to  the  south- 
ward.    He  accordingly  kept  his  vessel  going,  blew  his  steam 
whistle  continuously,  showed  his  stern  to  the  submarine, 
and  zigzagged  his  course.     The  second  shell  dropped  into 
the  sea  only  twenty  yards  short ;    the  third  whizzed  close 
over  the  wheel-house  ;    the  fourth  fell  just  short  of  the 
stern.     It  was  a  pretty  close  thing,  but  by  clever  handling 
the  skipper  brought  his  vessel  safely  out  of  the  fray  ;    he 
succeeded  in  running  the  U-boat  out  of  sight,  and  even- 
tually got  to  St.  Kilda,  where  he  reported  his  adventure. 
When   the   full    account    of    this   incident    reached    the 
Admiralty,    their    Lordships    sent    Skipper    Golding    an 
expression  of  their  appreciation  of  his  courageous  action 
in  attempting  to  ram,  and  in  his  success  in  avoiding  the 
loss  of  his  ship.     They  also  awarded  the  sum  of  £55  to  be 
divided  between  owners,  skipper,  mate,  and  crew. 

The  sinkings  of  ordinary  fishing-vessels  became 
numerous  as  the  summer  of  1915  advanced.  Ten  were 
sunk  in  April,  twenty-two  in  May,  and  fifty-eight  in  June, 
this  month  marking  the  "  peak  "  of  the  curve  ;  there 
were  thirty-six  sinkings  in  July  and  August  respectively, 
and  only  six  in  September.  No  such  incidents  occurred 
again  until  January  1916,  when  seven  were  sunk,  the 
greatest  number  attained  that  year  being  thirty-eight  in 
the  month  of  September.  In  July  U3  succeeded  in 
destroying  a  number  of  fishing-trawlers  belonging  to  Hull, 
Grimsby,  Aberdeen,  and  North  Shields.  To  combat  these 
tactics  of  the  enemy  in  attacking  ordinary  fishing-vessels, 
disguised  trawlers  were  being  used  with  the  fishing-fleets, 
but  enough  patrol-trawlers  were  not  available  to  provide 
complete  protection.  The  Fishing  Vessels'  Owners'  Asso- 
ciations at  both  Hull  and  Grimsby  were  protesting  at  this 
period   against   the   Admiralty   requisitioning   any   more 

CH.  Ill]     "  WHERE   IGNORANCE   IS   BLISS "  53 

trawlers  for  the  naval  service.  For  a  time  some  East 
Coast  fishing-craft  were  allowed  to  carry  pigeons  for  send- 
ing information  ashore  of  enemy  activities,  but  this  method 
of  passing  in  intelligence  was  found  slow  and  unreliable. 
The  two  armed  yachts  Eileen  and  Mekong  were  charged 
with  the  duty  of  keeping  an  eye  on  East  Coast  fishing-fleets 
and  used  to  go  out  to  about  long.  2°  25'  E,,  where  the  Hull 
fishing-fleet  of  trawlers  was  at  work  in  September.  Three 
armed  trawlers  fitted  with  wireless  were  also  dispatched 
patrolling  off  the  Dogger  Bank. 

About  350  fishing-trawlers  continued,  in  spite  of  the 
war,  to  fish  in  the  North  Sea  ;  the  steam  fish- carriers  went 
out  to  meet  them  as  in  normal  times  and  conveyed  the 
catches  to  London.  In  spite  of  the  losses  sustained,  the 
fishermen  continued  to  go  to  sea  with  complete  disregard 
of  all  danger.  Some  of  the  "  yarns  "  current  during  the 
war  concerning  the  casual  regard  which  the  North  Sea 
fisherman  had  for  mines  must  be  dismissed  as  apocryphal. 
But  in  the  late  summer  of  1915  two  cases  did  occur  which 
support  the  adage  that  fact  is  stranger  than  fiction.  One 
day,  for  instance,  a  fisherman  came  into  Grimsby  towing 
a  German  mine  which  had  all  its  horns  knocked  off.  He 
explained  that  as  he  had  heard  that  the  horns  were  the 
dangerous  parts  he  had  knocked  them  off  with  a  boat- 
hook  !  Another  fisherman  one  night  made  fast  to  what 
he  thought  was  a  buoy  ;  but  at  daylight  it  turned  out  to 
be  a  mine  !  Fortunately,  efficient  as  undoubtedly  the 
German  mines  usually  were,  in  many  instances  they  failed 
to  act ;  otherwise  neither  of  these  fishermen  would  have 
seen  his  home  port  again. 

The  mastering  of  the  submarine  menace  now  needed 
something  else  besides  seamanship  and  gallantry.  British 
seamen  were  opposed  to  the  best  brains  of  the  German 
Navy  and  the  most  enterprising  of  its  personnel.  It  was 
obvious,  therefore,  that  to  bravery  had  to  be  added  subtlety 
and  to  daring  cunning.  If  it  is  impossible  to  catch  a 
pest  by  ordinary  means,  a  trap  for  him  must  be  baited  ; 
in  other  words,  he  must  be  taken  off  his  guard.  That  is 
precisely  what  now  had  to  be  done  in  the  North  Sea. 
The  best  form  of  trap  was  to  disguise  the  armament  of  a 
patrol-trawler,  leaving  her  paint  and  fishing  numbers  and 
the  deck  appointments,  her  masts  and  funnels,  just  as  they 
were  in  peace-time,  and  send  her  to  sea  among  the  fishing- 

64  THE  FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [ch.  iii 

fleets,  on  the  pretence  of  fishing,  in  the  hope  that  the  enemy 
would  appear  and  attack  her.  The  armed  trawlers  would 
then  cease  pretending  and  open  fire  at  the  enemy.  This 
stratagem  was  being  tried  in  the  early  months  of  1915,  for 
instance,  by  Humber  armed  trawlers  among  the  Dogger 
Bank  fishing-craft,  but  so  far  no  submarine  had  been  sunk. 

But  a  more  ingenious  device  was  subsequently  evolved, 
which  was  as  successful  as  it  was  clever.  The  idea  was 
to  send  an  apparently  innocent  fishing-trawler  in  those 
waters  off  the  north-east  Scottish  coast  where  fishing-craft 
had  actually  been  sunk.  Attack  was  invited.  This  was 
the  bait.  Astern  of  the  trawler  was  one  of  the  C-class  of 
submarines,  submerged,  but  towed  by  the  trawler.  This 
was  the  trap.  An  elastic  cable  and  telephones  were  in- 
stalled in  order  to  keep  up  communication,  and  thus  the 
trawler  could  keep  the  submarine  informed  of  the  enemy's 
movements,  so  that,  at  the  precise  moment,  the  British 
submarine  could  cast  off  tow  rope  and  cable,  and  attack 
her  "  opposite  number,"  the  U-boat.  This  scheme  was 
first  suggested  by  Acting-Paymaster  F.  T.  Spickernell, 
R.N.,  Admiral  Beatty's  secretary,  but  the  details  were 
worked  out  by  Captain  V.  H.  S.  Haggard,  R.N.,  who  was 
in  command  of  H.M.S.  Vulcan,  the  submarine  depot 
ship,  lying  in  Leith  docks,  where  a  flotilla  of  submarines 
was  stationed  for  the  defence  of  the  Firth  of  Forth. 

The  senior  officer  of  these  submarines  was  Lieutenant- 
Commander  H.  O.  Edwards,  R.N.,  afterwards  killed,  and 
he,  together  with  the  other  submarine  officers,  exercised 
their  crews  for  a  whole  month,  going  out  to  sea  and  in- 
viting attack.  No  success  was  achieved  until  June  8th. 
C27  was  operating  in  the  manner  indicated  with  the  dis- 
guised armed  trawler  Taranaki,  and  the  submarine  was  just 
about  to  fire  her  torpedo  when  it  was  realised  that  the 
U-boat  was  too  near.  It  was  feared  at  the  time  that  the 
enemy  had  seen  C27  and  that  thus  Germany  would  learn 
of  this  new  ruse.  The  greatest  care  was  therefore 
necessary  in  any  future  attempt. 

At  1  a.m.  on  June  23rd  H.M.  Submarine  C24,  under 
the  command  of  Lieutenant  F.  H.  Taylor,  R.N.,  stole 
out  of  Aberdeen  in  company  with  the  armed  trawler 
Taranalii  and  shaped  a  south-easterly  course.  Five  hours 
later  the  trawler  (Lieutenant-Commander  Edwards)  took 
the  submarine  in  tow.     The   latter  then   submerged  to 

CH.  Ill]  C24    SINKS   U40  55 

thirty  feet.  At  9.30  a.m.  a  U-boat  rose  to  the  surface 
fifty  miles  S.E.  by  S.  of  Girdleness  and  fired  a  gun  across  the 
trawler's  bows  at  a  distance  of  about  2,000  yards,  the  shell 
bursting  about  twenty  yards  ahead.  Three  minutes  later 
C24  was  informed  by  telephone  that  the  enemy  was  1,000 
yards  astern.  Thereupon  Lieutenant  Taylor  gave  orders  to 
slip  the  tow,  but  unfortunately,  by  the  worst  of  luck,  the 
tow  rope  jammed  and  could  not  be  slipped.  Finally,  at  9.45 
a.m.  the  trawler  slipped  her  end  of  the  rope  and  stopped. 
The  enemy  also  stopped,  being  on  the  trawler's  starboard 
beam,  about  a  thousand  yards  off ;  she  was  trimmed  ready 
for  instant  diving.  Clearly  the  German  scented  the  trap, 
so  in  order  to  entice  him  Lieutenant- Commander  Edwards 
ordered  out  the  trawler's  boat  as  if  he  were  abandoning  ship. 
Meanwhile  C24  had  gone  ahead  with  helm  a-starboard  to 
attack  the  U-boat.  Again,  by  bad  luck,  the  British 
submarine  became  unhandy  and  immediately  sank  to  thirty- 
eight  feet,  and  it  took  some  time  to  get  her  trim  right  again. 
The  cause  of  this  mishap  was  presently  discovered. 
One  hundred  fathoms  of  3|-inch  towing  wire  and  some  8-inch 
coir  hawser,  in  addition  to  a  hundred  fathoms  of  telephone 
cable,  were  still  fast  to  the  bows.  In  spite  of  this,  the  two 
coxswains  of  C24  steered  and  trimmed  her  so  ably  that  she 
never  broke  surface.  Meanwhile  Lieutenant  Taylor,  using 
his  periscope  little  and  seldom,  eventually  sighted  the 
enemy's  conning-tower  and  gun,  and  closed  to  500  yards. 
He  then  manoeuvred  to  get  in  a  beam  shot,  and  at  9.55  a.m. 
fired  at  the  conning-tower.  To  the  joy  of  the  Taranaki's 
crew,  the  torpedo  was  seen  to  explode  under  the  conning- 
tower  and  the  U-boat  instantly  sank,  never  again  to  rise. 
C24  then  came  to  the  surface  and  picked  up  the  German 
commanding  officer,  while  the  Taranaki  rescued  another 
officer  and  one  petty  officer.  Nothing  else  remained  of 
this  enemy  craft — U40 — except  a  lifebuoy  and  a  bucket. 
When  C24  tried  to  go  astern  it  was  discovered  that  the 
propeller  refused  to  move,  having  twenty  turns  of  tele- 
phone cable  round  the  shaft.  However,  having  transferred 
the  German  prisoners  to  the  trawler,  C24  was  taken  in  tow 
again  and  safely  reached  Aberdeen.  Everyone  had  done 
well  in  the  Taranaki  and  C24,  in  spite  of  difficulties,  and 
one  of  the  latest  and  most  successful  U-boats  had  been 
accounted  for.  For  this  service  Lieutenant-Commander 
Edwards  received  the  D.S.O.,  and  Lieutenant  Taylor  the 

56  THE  FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [ch.  iii 

D.S.C.,  and  each  coxswain  a  D.S.M.  It  is  interesting  to 
note  that  the  captain  of  U40  admitted  that  he  had  been 
watching  the  Taranaki  all  the  moVning  and  had  been 
completely  deceived,  so  excellent  was  the  disguise. 

On  the  same  morning  that  this  incident  occurred,  another 
trawler  engagement  was  being  fought  off  the  Hebrides  far 
from  the  scene  of  the  Phcebe^s  encounter.      It  was  eleven 
o'clock,  and  the  armed  trawler  Bush  (Skipper  G.   King) 
was  on  patrol  about  eight  miles  north-north-west  of  the 
Butt  of  Lewis.       Two  drifters  with  their  nets  down  were 
three  miles  inside  of  her  at  the  time,  and  it  was  blowing 
hard  from   east-north-east   with   considerable   sea.     Sud- 
denly  from    windward    a    shell    fell    about    fifty    yards 
short  of  the  wheel-house  of  the  Bush,  which  was  head- 
ing   about    south-east.     Skipper    King    went    full    speed 
ahead,    altered    course,    and    saw    a    submarine   travel- 
ling about  north-north-west.     Whilst  in  the  act  of  turn- 
ing, a  second  shot  was  fired  and  this  also  missed.     The 
Bush  now   used   her  rocket  distress    signal,    hoisted   the 
signal  "  Submarine  in  sight,"  and  fired  her  12-pounder. 
This  first  shot  from  the  trawler  fell  short ;  the  second  shot 
was  very  close,  but  also  short.     The  third  shot  was  so 
close  that  the  enemy  made  a  smoke  screen    and    under 
cover  of  this  dived  and  disappeared.     For  two  hours  search 
was  made  in  the  heavy  sea,  but  the  enemy  was  not  seen 
again.     Shortly  afterwards  the  Bush  met  the  Norwegian 
s.s.  Bianca,  bound  from  Archangel,  and  directed  her  down 
the  Minch,   thus   saving  her  from  the   submarine.     The 
Bush  was  only  slightly  damaged  by  the  six  shots  fired  at 
her.     Of  these  the  last  three  were  hits,  the  fourth  having 
passed    between   the    gunlayer    and    breechworker.     Two 
large  pieces  of  shell  were  picked  up  which  indicated  that 
the  enemy's  gun — the  equivalent  of  3|-inch — was  decidedly 
superior  to  that  of  the  trawler's.     The  submarine  was  not 
sunk,  but  a  trawler  had  shown  the  enemy  that  fishermen 
were  fighters.     The  incident  pleased  both  Admiral  Jellicoe 
and  the  Admiralty,  and  from  the  latter  came  an  expression 
of  appreciation  and  the  sum  of  £60  for  the  crew  of  the 

About  a  month  later  there  followed  yet  another  trawler- 
submarine  engagement  off  the  Hebrides,  but  this  time 
it  was  at  the  southern  end,  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Barra 
Head.     If  it  be  matter  for  surprise  that  German  submarines 

CH,  III]  THE   FIGHT   OF   THE   "  PEARL  "  57 

at  this  time  should  have  hovered  about  the  Hebrides, 
the  reason  is  not  far  to  seek.  The  Grand  Fleet  in  Scapa 
Flow  required  an  enormous  amount  of  coal  and  other 
stores.  These  supplies  had  to  be  brought  in  merchant 
ships  which  came  up  the  West  Coast  so  as  to  avoid  the 
submarines  operating  in  the  North  Sea.  In  addition, 
there  was  a  good  deal  of  other  traffic  by  merchant  ships, 
especially  to  Archangel,  through  which  we  were  supplying 
war  material  to  the  Russians.  Moreover,  both  Barra 
Head  in  the  south,  the  Butt  of  Lewis  in  the  north,  and  the 
island  of  St,  Kilda  in  the  west  were  landmarks,  navigation- 
ally  most  useful  to  the  U-boats  proceeding  to  and  from  the 
coast  of  Ireland.  It  followed,  then,  that  the  craft  of  the 
Auxiliary  Patrol  based  on  Stornoway  had  no  easy  time. 

On  July  27th,  at  4  a.m. — just  that  time  when  nature 
is  at  its  lowest  and  when,  therefore,  the  best  lookout  is  not 
always  maintained — the  armed  trawler  Pearl  was  patrolling 
off  Barra  Head.  The  weather  was  not  pleasant,  for  the 
wind  was  freshening  from  the  south-east  and  it  was  thick  ; 
there  was  a  moderate  south-west  swell  coming  in  from 
the  Atlantic ;  almost  certainly  a  gale  was  brewing.  At 
4.15  a.m.  a  small  object  was  sighted  four  points  on  the 
starboard  bow,  about  5,280  yards  away.  Course  was  altered 
towards  it,  and  five  minutes  afterwards,  as  it  appeared  to 
be  a  submarine  on  the  surface,  heading  south,  the  trawler 
cleared  for  action.  The  Pearl  was  commanded  by  Sub- 
Lieutenant  A.  C.  Allman,  R.N.R.,  and  carried  also  a  skipper 
in  addition  to  her  crew. 

With  all   hands  at   their  stations,   the  skipper  at  the 
wheel,    and    full    speed    on    the    engine-room    telegraph, 
the   Pearl  made  for  the    enemy    vessel,    which    altered 
course  to   south-south-west.      The  trawler   had    nothing 
better  than  a   little    3-pounder   gun,    so    Sub-Lieutenant 
Allman   instructed    his    petty   officer   not    to    open    fire 
until  the  range  was  down  to  1,000  yards.     At  4.25  a.m. 
the   submarine    was   only   500   yards   off,   but   travelling 
at    high    speed    and    firing    across    the    trawler's    bows. 
The  Pearl  altered  course  and  prepared  to  ram,  at  the  same 
time  bringing  her  gun  to  bear.     The  first  two  shots  dropped 
very  close  to  the  submarine's  stern  ;    the  fifth  and  sixth 
seemed  to  hit.     It  was  a  short  range  ;   the  gun's  crew  were 
working  quickly  and  the  shooting  was  good,  but  within 
five  minutes  the  gun  no  longer  bore.     The  submarine  was 

58  THE  FISHERMEN'S  ORDEAL  [ch.  iii 

compelled  hurriedly  to  dive,  crossing  close  to  the  trawler's 
bows.  Sub-Lieutenant  Allman  put  his  helm  hard  a-star- 
board  and  made  a  great  effort  to  ram,  but  missed  the 
enemy  by  about  forty  feet.  In  a  short  time  the  periscope 
was  seen,  so  the  petty  officer  at  the  gun  took  careful  aim 
and  with  his  second  shot  hit  and  broke  off  the  periscope, 
after  which  the  U-boat  submerged  completely,  leaving  on 
the  surface  a  thick  oily  wake. 

This  was  to  prove  an  exceptionally  long  duel,  one  of  the 
very  longest  in  the  whole  of  the  submarine  war,  and  it 
speaks  well  for  the  dogged  determination  of  the  officer 
in  charge  and  his  crew  that  with  such  inferior  armament 
they  were  able  to  dominate  an  enemy  equipped  with  a 
more  powerful  gun,  as  well  as  torpedoes,  and  possessing 
the  ability  to  choose  his  own  range.  It  is  known  now  that 
the  submarine  was  U41  and  that  her  captain  was  one  of 
the  most  efficient  officers  of  his  service.  At  4.35  a.m. 
she  was  heading  south-west,  doing  about  7  knots,  so  the 
Pearl  took  a  position  on  her  opponent's  starboard  bow, 
kept  a  parallel  course,  and,  with  her  gun  bearing,  was 
ready  to  ram  should  the  U-boat  come  to  the  surface. 
This  went  on  until  an  hour  later,  when  the  enemy  altered 
course  to  north-east,  with  speed  unchanged.  At  6.15  a.m. 
the  U-boat  again  altered  course,  this  time  to  north-west, 
and  eased  to  4  knots.  It  was  obvious  that  the  Pearl,  by 
keeping  up  the  chase,  was  causing  the  enemy's  batteries 
to  run  down  and  all  the  while  the  trawler  kept  closing  in, 
alert  for  the  first  chance  of  ramming.  Unfortunately,  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  later  the  weather  came  on  thick,  rain 
falling,  but  at  9.15  a.m.  the  submarine  came  close  to  the 
surface,  though  without  showing  herself.  Still  refusing 
to  lose  any  possible  chance,  the  trawler  carried  on,  and  at 
11  a.m.  endeavoured  to  fire  her  explosive  sweep  about  500 
feet  ahead  of  the  oily  wave,  but  by  a  piece  of  bad  luck  the 
electric  cable  was  so  injured  in  getting  it  over  the  side  that 
it  would  not  fire.  Troubles  did  not  come  singly,  for,  after 
chasing  for  another  hour,  the  chief  engineer  reported  that 
one  of  his  pumps  was  out  of  order  and  that  it  would  be 
necessary  to  stop  in  an  hour's  time  for  a  repairing  job 
which  would  take  three  hours. 

It  was  a  most  disappointing  incident,  yet  there  was  no 
possible  alternative  but  to  give  up  the  chase,  which  had 
now  brought  the  Pearl  to  a  position  thirty-eight  miles 

CH.  Ill]  THE   LAST   OF   U41  59 

S.W.  by  W.  of  St.  Kilda.     The  Pearl  managed  to  get  into 
St.  Kilda  that  same  afternoon,  but  with  scarcely  any  water 
in  her  boiler.     She  had  maintained  a  spirited  hunt  after  the 
submarine  over  a  period  of  nearly  eight  hours,  during  which 
the  trawler  had  exercised  her  will-power  over  the  enemy 
simply  by  sheer  blunt  determination.     Had  the  Pearl  really 
damaged  U41  ?    At  the  time  it  was  thought  that  the  enemy 
had  been  holed  in  an  oil-tank  in  his  outer  skin  and  that  this 
accounted  for  the  oily  wake.     Four  shots  had  been  fired  by 
the  submarine  and  thirty-four  by  the  trawler,  so  at  short 
range  some  could  not  have  failed  to  hit.     It  was  after- 
wards ascertained  that  U41  was  seriously  injured  in  the 
conning-tower,  so  that,  although  she  was  outward  bound, 
she  was  compelled  to  break  off  her  voyage  and  return  home. 
This  was  to  be  no  pleasure  cruise  for  the  U-boat,  for, 
having  arrived  at  St.  Kilda,  the  Pearl  made  her  report, 
and  later  on  in  the  day  a  wireless  message  informing  the 
patrols  was  picked  up  by  the  armed  yacht  Vanessa,  which 
immediately  altered  course  to  cut  off  the  retreating  enemy. 
At  9.10  p.m.  she  actually  sighted  her  and  chased  her  till 
after  ten  o'clock,  but  then  the  enemy  got  away  and  was 
seen  no  more  that  day.     At  four  the  next  morning  she  was 
sighted  still  farther  north  by  the  armed  trawler  Stanley 
Weyman,  by  the  armed  yacht  Maid  of  Honour,  and  by  the 
armed  trawler  Swan,  and  chased  for  the  best  part  of  two 
hours,  but  U41  evaded  them  and  got  safely  back  to  Ger- 
many.    This    submarine    was    in   charge   of   Lieutenant- 
Commander  Hansen,  who  had  already  had  experience  of 
the  offensive- defensive  value  of  the  ram.     For  U41  was 
just   out    from    the    dockyard    after    repairs    caused    by 
being  rammed  on  July  16th  by  the  mine-sweeping  gun- 
boat  Speedwell,   which  on   this   day  had  sighted  U41 
only  250  yards  away,  and  had  gone  for  her  with  full  speed 
on  both  engines  and  struck  her  with  such  force  as  to  cause 
the  Speedwell  to  heel  over,  her  bottom  plating  being 
damaged.     The  incident  had  occurred  north  of  the  Shet- 
lands  and  had  damaged  both  periscopes  of  the  submarine, 
so  that  she  had  to  make  her  way  back  across  the  North 
Sea,  reaching  Germany  on  July  19th.     The  moral  effect 
on  the  crew  of  the  PearVs  success  in  sending  her  home  for 
repairs  a  second  time  within  the  same  month  can  well  be 
imagined.     U41  was  sent  to  her  grave  by  a  British  man- 
of-war  a  few  weeks  later.     As  to  the  PearVs  exploit,  the 

60  THE  FISHERMEN'S  ORDEAL  [ch.  hi 

Admiralty  praised  her  commanding  officer  and  crew, 
awarding  them  the  sum  of  £150  and  promoting  Sub- 
Licutcnant  Allman  to  Lieutenant,  with  seniority  dating 
from  the  day  on  which  he  had  engaged  the  submarine. 

On  the  southern  side  of  the  Firth  of  Forth  is  the  port  of 
Granton,  which  by  the  spring  of  1915  had  developed  into 
a  most  important  naval  base,  crowded  with  all  kinds  of 
vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol.  The  senior  naval  officer 
was  Admiral  James  Startin,  who,  having  ended  his  time 
on  the  active  list  before  the  war  opened,  had  come  back 
to  serve  as  a  R.N.R.  officer.  To  his  infectious  enthusiasm 
and  powers  as  an  organiser  were  due  in  large  measure  the 
successes  which  were  achieved  by  the  vessels  using  this 
base.  He  had  been  struck  during  the  early  summer  by 
the  number  of  molestations  by  submarines  of  neutral 
merchant  traffic  in  the  North  Sea.  On  July  9th  a  U-boat 
had  held  up  four  steamers  about  forty  miles  east  of  Fifeness, 
but  had  bolted  as  soon  as  the  armed  yacht  Minona  had 
come  into  sight.  The  Admiral  therefore  resolved  to 
carry  out  a  stratagem.  Among  his  vessels  were  two  fine 
trawlers,  the  Quickly  and  the  Gunner.  The  former  had 
already  been  disguised  so  cleverly  that  she  had  been  taken 
by  one  of  our  own  destroyers  for  a  Danish  cargo  steamer. 
He  now  improved  her  disguise,  replaced  her  3-pounder 
by  a  12-pounder,  mounted  a  6-pounder  aft,  and  sent  her 
off  to  St.  Andrew's  Bay.  The  trawler  Gunner  he  also 
disguised,  giving  her  a  deck  cargo  made  up  of  an  empty 
hawser  reel,  a  hundred  bags  of  sawdust,  some  empty 
crates,  and  some  timber.  The  Gunner  joined  the  Quickly 
in  St.  Andrew's  Bay  and  to  her  transferred  the  cargo. 
Four  naval  ratings  as  guns'  crew  had  been  put  on  board 
these  two  ships,  and  on  July  19th  the  vessels  left  the  bay, 
Admiral  Startin  himself  being  in  the  Quickly,  and  steamed 
towards  Bell  Rock,  where  target  practice  was  carried  out 
until  the  Admiral  was  satisfied  that  both  vessels  could 
make  good  shooting. 

They  then  proceeded  to  their  rendezvous  where  sub- 
marines had  recently  been  at  work,  and  during  the  after- 
noon the  Quickly  completed  her  disguise  as  a  Norwegian 
cargo  boat,  Norwegian  colours  being  hoisted  at  the  mizzen 
masthead  and  also  painted  on  prepared  slips  of  canvas 
which  were  placed  on  each  side  amidships.  To  make  the 
disguise  perfect,  a  couple  of  derricks  were  placed  on  the 

CH.  Ill]       THE   FIGHT   OF   THE   "  QUICKLY "  61 

foremast.  She  thus  resembled  one  of  those  numerous 
Norse  traders  which  could  be  seen  any  day  in  the  North 
Sea.  At  9  a.m.  on  July  20th  the  Quickly  arrived  at  the 
rendezvous,  and  just  one  hour  later  a  large  submarine  was 
sighted  on  the  surface  with  two  masts  and  two  guns. 
Ten  minutes  afterwards  both  the  "  Norwegian  "  vessel 
and  the  U-boat  were  steering  parallel  courses,  the  inter- 
vening distance  being  about  four  miles.  For  a  short 
period  the  U-boat  scrutinised  the  Quickly,  then  altered 
course  to  cut  her  off,  lowering  both  masts.  At  10.24  the 
enemy  had  closed  to  about  1,500  yards  and  hoisted  the 
international  signal  to  stop.  Five  minutes  later  she  fired 
the  first  shot  at  the  trawler  ;  but  already  the  latter's  gun 
crew  had  been  preparing  for  action  under  cover.  The 
Norwegian  flag  was  now  hauled  down,  the  White  Ensign 
run  up,  the  strips  of  canvas  taken  off,  and  at  10.32  the 
Quickly  returned  the  fire  from  her  12-pounder  with  a  shot 
that  struck  the  enemy's  hull  abaft  the  conning-tower, 
much  smoke  being  seen  to  issue  from  her.  The  6-pounder 
then  opened  fire,  and  the  enemy  returned  it,  but  her  shots 
fell  either  short  or  over.     Admiral  Startin  himself  stated : 

"  The  6-pounder  claims  to  have  put  her  foremost  gun 
out  of  action.  The  third  shot  from  the  12-pounder  struck 
the  submarine  right  forward,  and  flames  were  seen  by 
myself  and  everybody  coming  from  her  bows." 

At  10.50  a.m.  the  U-boat  submerged  until  her  conning- 
tower  was  awash,  but  came  to  the  surface  again  and  began 
to  steam  away  in  that  condition.  By  this  time  the  Gunner, 
which  had  been  following  astern,  arrived  on  the  scene  and 
also  opened  fire.  The  German  craft  steamed  away  very 
slowly,  being  at  times  enveloped  in  smoke.  Another  shot 
from  the  Quickly^s  12-pounder  shattered  the  conning-tower 
and  the  Gunner  also  hit  her.  The  two  ships  then  closed 
the  enemy  with  a  view  to  ramming  her,  but  she  submerged 
and  at  first  could  be  clearly  seen  by  them.  There  was  much 
oil  and  there  were  many  bubbles  ;  so  a  depth  charge  was 
exploded.  Nothing  came  to  the  surface  to  suggest  that 
it  was  effective.  After  remaining  in  the  neighbourhood 
for  another  couple  of  hours,  the  two  British  craft  left  the 
scene.  It  was  afterwards  learnt  that  the  submarine  was 
not  sunk  ;  she  had  managed  to  get  home  in  a  wounded 
condition.      There   are   on   record    other   equally    amaz- 

62  THE  FISHERMEN'S  ORDEAL  [ch.  hi 

ingly  narrow  escapes  where  U-boats,  after  being  quite 
as  severely  punished,  managed  to  make  really  long  voyages 
safely  back  to  Germany.  No  one,  however,  will  begrudge 
the  commendation  which  the  Admiralty  bestowed  on 
Admiral  Startin,  the  officers  and  crews  of  these  two  ships, 
nor  the  sum  of  £500  which  was  awarded  to  be  divided 
among  the  crews.  To  Lieutenant  T.  E.  Price,  R.N.R., 
the  commanding  officer  of  the  Quickly,  was  given  the 
D.S.C.,  and  a  similar  decoration  was  conferred  on  Sub- 
Lieutenant  C.  H.  Hudson,  R.N.R.,  who  was  in  command 
of  the  Gunner.  The  D.S.M.  was  conferred  on  the  captains 
of  the  12-pounder  and  the  6-pounder  guns  respectively, 
and  also  on  the  Admiral's  coxswain,  who  spotted  for  the 
6-inch  gun  in  the  Quickly. 

Whilst  such  engagements  as  these  were  going  on,  the 
fishermen,  who  were  still  pursuing  their  calling,  showed 
that  they  were  ready  for  any  emergency  with  which  the 
fate  of  war  might  confront  them.  At  the  end  of  June 
the  Norwegian  barque  Kotka,  an  iron-built  vessel  of  just 
under  a  thousand  tons,  had  the  misfortune  to  fall  in  with 
a  submarine  in  the  Atlantic  off  the  south-west  Irish  coast. 
But  for  the  Hull  fishing-trawler  Rambler  she  could  never 
have  been  saved  ;  and  in  order  rightly  to  appreciate  the 
circumstances  it  is  necessary  first  to  realise  what  were  the 
hazards  which  sailing-ships  were  at  this  time  compelled 
to  support. 

Owing  to  the  scarcity  of  tonnage,  the  demand  for  such 
sailing-ships  as  could  carry  oversea  cargoes  was  now  very 
great.  The  Government  had  taken  up  a  large  number  of 
steamships  as  war  auxiliaries,  transports,  supply  ships, 
colliers.  At  the  same  time  there  was  greater  need  for 
tonnage  in  which  to  bring  across  the  ocean  food,  timber, 
and  other  commodities  to  meet  national  and  military 
needs.  In  these  circumstances,  the  despised  sailing-ship, 
even  though  old,  entered  on  a  fresh  lease  of  life.  The 
British  register  was  swelled  by  many  German  sailing-ships 
which  had  been  captured  and  sold  to  British  or  neutral 
firms  and  were  now  engaged  in  carrying  grain.  But  the 
U-boat  was  no  longer  confined  to  the  North  Sea  :  she 
too  was  an  ocean-going  craft  which  could  go  round  the 
north  of  Scotland,  into  the  Atlantic,  down  the  Irish 
coast,  and  operate  off  the  western  approaches  of  the 
British  Isles.     No  easier  prey  could  be  afforded  the  sub- 


marine  than  the  home-coming  saihng-ship ;  she  was  in 
the  nature  almost  of  a  gift  to  any  U-boat  that  might  come 
along.  Thus,  during  the  first  half  of  June  in  the  south- 
west approaches  to  the  British  Isles,  no  fewer  than  five 
British,  three  Allied,  and  two  neutral  sailing-ships  were 
sunk,  most  of  them  carrying  valuable  cargoes  of  raw 
materials.  A  spell  of  easterly  winds,  such  as  is  usual 
during  this  month,  exposed  these  craft  to  considerable 
risks,  and  therefore  the  Mercantile  Marine  Service  Associa- 
tion of  Liverpool  suggested  to  the  Admiralty  the  desira- 
bility of  providing  free  towage  into  port  of  such  sailing- 
ships  as  arrived  off  our  coasts.  Tugs,  it  was  urged,  should 
be  stationed  at  Queenstown  and  Falmouth  to  assist  them 
into  port. 

It  was  whilst  the  Admiralty  were  considering  this  matter 
that  the  fine  four-masted  barque  Dumfriesshire  of  Glasgow 
(2,622  tons)  was  torpedoed  and  sunk  on  June  28th,  twenty- 
five  miles  south-west  of  the  Smalls.  She  had  left  San 
Francisco  with  4,100  tons  of  barley  and  had  reached 
Falmouth  on  June  25th.  From  there  she  had  been  ordered 
to  Dublin,  and  on  her  way  was  destroyed.  In  July  Lloyd's 
also  wrote  to  the  Admiralty  giving  a  list  of  sailing-vessels 
sunk  by  submarines  since  March  31st,  and  made  the 
suggestion  that  sailing-vessels  should  be  warned,  when 
approaching  the  United  Kingdom,  of  the  safest  routes. 
From  March  31st  to  July  2nd,  it  was  pointed  out,  forty- 
three  of  these  craft  had  been  sunk  by  U-boats  off  the 
British  Isles,  and  on  July  6th  there  were  at  sea  bound  from 
American  ports  for  the  United  Kingdom  no  fewer  than  138 
sailing-ships  with  such  valuable  cargoes  as  grain,  timber, 
and  nitrate. 

The  difficulty  was  that  there  were  no  such  things 
as  safe  routes  :  wherever  a  sailing-ship  went  she  was 
in  grave  danger.  A  conference  was  therefore  held, 
presided  over  by  the  Fourth  Sea  Lord,  with  representatives 
of  the  Board  of  Trade,  the  Sailing- Ship  Association,  and 
the  Trade  Division  of  the  Admiralty.  This  took  place 
on  July  16th,  and  it  was  decided  that  the  Admiralty  should 
be  asked  to  send  a  cruiser  to  meet  all  in-coming  ships  and 
indicate  to  them  a  port  of  discharge,  whence  they  might 
be  convoyed  ;  that  the  Admiralty  should  be  requested 
to  telegraph  to  the  various  Consuls  directing  them  to  advise 
the  masters  of  saiHng-ships  to  stop  outside  the  100-fathom 
II— 6 

64  THE   FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [ch.  hi 

line  and  there  await  a  westerly  wind,  then  running  straight 
to  their  port  of  discharge  :  that  westerly  ports  should, 
where  possible,  be  used  for  discharge  :  that  the  Admiralty 
should  locally  provide  the  necessary  tugs  subject  to  the 
exigencies  of  the  naval  service.  The  outcome  of  this 
was  the  issue  of  an  order  that  when  towage  was  urgently 
needed  for  sailing-ships  it  should  be  provided  ;  and  In- 
telligence Officers  were  advised  by  telegraph  all  over  the 
world  to  warn  British  and  Allied  sailing-ships  to  keep 
west  of  the  100-fathom  line  until  a  favourable  wind  should 
enable  them  to  lay  a  direct  course  for  their  destination. 

Such,  then,  was  the  degree  of  risk  which  awaited  the 
home-coming  sailing-ship.  The  Hull  steam-trawler 
Rambler  had  left  Liverpool  for  her  fishing- grounds  off  the 
south-west  of  Ireland,  and  in  the  early  hours  of  the  morning 
was  engaged  in  fishing  when  she  sighted  the  Kotka  about 
seven  miles  off.  Something  in  her  appearance  was  evidently 
wrong,  so  at  6  a.m.  the  trawler  hove  up  her  gear  and 
steamed  towards  her.  It  was  at  once  obvious  that  there 
was  not  a  soul  on  board  :  it  was  equally  evident  that  she 
had  been  holed.  What  actually  had  happened  was  that, 
when  thirty  miles  south-west  of  the  Bull  Rock,  a  submarine 
had  shelled  her  and  then  the  crew  had  abandoned  ship. 
She  was  an  iron  ship,  bound  from  Maine  to  Cork,  and  it 
was  pathetic  that,  after  safely  crossing  the  Atlantic,  she 
should  have  fallen  a  victim  so  near  to  her  port  of  destina- 
tion. Skipper  Richmond  launched  the  Rambler's  boat, 
and  sent  the  mate,  second  engineer,  boatswain,  and  cook 
to  investigate,  but  on  account  of  the  heavy  sea  they  were 
unable  to  get  on  board.  However,  five  hours  later  the 
boat  was  again  launched  and  Skipper  Richmond  went 
himself,  together  with  the  second  engineer  and  a  deck 
hand,  to  see  what  could  be  done.  He  found  the  barque 
was  under  water  forward  and  the  only  part  of  her  hull 
that  was  clear  was  her  poop.  He  decided  to  try  and  take 
her  in  tow  as  the  weather  was  moderating,  and  in  the 
meantime  returned  to  his  trawler.  At  six  o'clock  that 
evening  the  wind  had  died  down,  though  there  was  a  big 
ocean  swell,  and  the  operation  began. 

The  position  of  the  two  ships  was  now  about  thirty  or 
thirty-five  miles  south-south-west  of  Galley  Head.  It 
was  quite  possible  that  a  submarine  might  suddenly  appear 
from  nowhere  and  sink  both  trawler  and  barque.     The 


salving  of  the  latter  was,  therefore,  no  ordinary  hazard. 
Fishermen,  as  a  class,  are  not  distinguished  navigators, 
but   they   do    number   among   them   some    of  the    finest 
exponents   of  seamanship,   and   this    latter  art  was  well 
exhibited  on  this  occasion.     The  mate,  chief  engineer,  and 
deck  hand  boarded  the  Kotka,  and  got  a  wire  hawser  off 
a  reel  which  was  on  the  barque's  after  deck-house.     This 
wire  they  floated  down  to  the  Rambler  by  supporting  the 
wire  with  the  Kotka's  buoys  and  lifebelts,  one  end  of  it 
being  secured  to  the  barque.     The  trawler  then  steamed 
as   near  as   possible  to  the  floats,  and  a  wire  from  the 
Rambler  was  made  fast  to  the  end  of  the  Kotka' s  wire; 
the  former  then  shackled  her  trawl  warps  on  to  it.     By 
this  time  it  was  7.30  p.m.  and  towing  commenced,  the 
barque  being  towed  stern  first   because   of  the  damage 
she   had   sustained   forward.     All   went   well   during  the 
night,    and   at   four   the   following   morning   the   trawler 
signalled  the  Old  Head  of  Kinsale  asking  that  an  Admiralty 
tug  should  be  sent  from  Queenstown.     At  10  a.m.   the 
armed  trawler  Heron  arrived  from  that  port.     She  made 
fast  to  the  Kotka's  port  quarter,  but  her  warps  parted 
twice.     The  Rambler  then  shortened  her  warp,  but  this 
caused  it  to  part  also,  after  which  it  was  decided  to  tow 
the  barque  bow  first.     Some  of  the  Heron's  and  Rambler's 
crew  were  put  aboard  her,  and  from  11  a.m.  the  Heron 
towed  ahead,  with  the  Rambler  astern  steering.     An  horn- 
later  the  Admiralty  tug  Warrior  from  Queenstown  arrived 
and  took  the  Heron's  place,  and  in  the  evening  a  second 
Admiralty  tug  came  on  the  scene  and  lashed  alongside. 
In  a  short  time  the  barque  was  got  safely  into  Queenstown 
Harbour,  and  beached  after  a  fifty-mile  tow. 

Thus  once  more  trawlers,  manned  by  men  of  stubborn 
purpose,  had  defeated  the  machinations  of  the  enemy's 
submarine  warfare.  The  sea  is  the  strictest  of  schools, 
and  the  fisherman  spends  most  of  his  life  learning  its 
lessons.  If  the  fishing  industry  of  the  British  Isles  had 
not  existed  in  a  flourishing  state,  it  would  have  been 
impossible  to  deal  with  the  submarine  menace  :  the  U-boats 
would  have  acted  almost  as  they  pleased.  More  food- 
carrying  steamers  would  have  been  sunk,  greater  hard- 
ships would  have  had  to  be  endured  ashore,  and  the  armies 
would  have  lacked  adequate  supplies.  Gales  of  wind, 
thick  weather,  dark  nights,  intricate  pilotage,  ship-salving 

66  THE  FISHERMEN'S  ORDEAL  [ch.  m 

on  the  high  seas,  ship-handHng  in  narrow  waters — these 
are  the  common  experiences  of  fishermen  and  keep  ahve 
that  spirit  which  has  meant,  and  will  continue  to  mean, 
so  much  to  an  island  people.  The  liner,  the  tramp,  the 
trawler  and  drifter  are  all  part  of  the  nation's  essential  sea 

But  the  work  of  the  trawlers  was  not  confined  merely 
to  the  thwarting  of  submarines :  the  insidious  mine 
throughout  the  war  remained  a  standing  menace  to  the 
ships  of  the  Grand  Fleet  and  Merchant  Navy  alike.  In 
April  the  Swarte  Bank  mine-field  had  been  laid  ;  about 
the  end  of  next  month  or  the  beginning  of  June  the  Outer 
Silver  Pit  mine-field  had  been  laid  ;  and  on  the  night  of 
May  17th-18ththe  Dogger  Bank  mine-field  came  into  exist- 
ence, the  enemy's  hope  being  to  entrap  the  Grand  Fleet 
on  its  periodical  sweeps  towards  the  Heligoland  Bight. 
Most  wisely  the  Admiralty  policy  had  been  to  allow  the 
fishing-trawlers  the  widest  possible  freedom  in  fishing, 
realising  that  so  long  as  the  fishermen  were  permitted 
to  go  about  their  work  unfettered,  the  country  had  the 
advantage  of  an  improvised  sweeping-fleet  scouting,  as  it 
were,  for  these  hidden  mines.  The  fishermen  wanted 
nothing  but  their  freedom,  and  this  was  conceded  to 
them  in  large  measure.  The  Swarte  Bank  mine-field  had 
been  discovered  by  fishing-trawlers,  so  had  the  Outer  Silver 
Pit  mine-field  ;  so,  too,  was  the  Dogger  Bank  mine-field 
in  the  month  of  May.  In  effect,  fishing-trawlers,  dragging 
their  gear  along  the  bed  of  the  sea,  proved  to  be  the  out- 
posts of  the  mine-sweeping  fleet.  When  once  these  mine- 
fields had  been  discovered,  there  followed  months  of 
wearisome  work  for  the  paddlers  and  trawlers  engaged 
in  sweeping  up  the  laid  mines.  As  to  the  Tory  Island 
mine-field,  laid  as  far  back  as  the  autumn  of  1914,  the 
clearance  continued  to  be  made  under  difficult  circum- 
stances. During  the  comparatively  fine  weather  of  June 
much  progress  was  made,  and  by  the  first  week  of  July 
it  was  comparatively  clear,  though  not  till  the  following 
March  was  it  definitely  swept  up  completely  for  all  ships. 

By  the  summer  of  1915  two  facts  had  been  grasped. 
Up  to  June  1st  all  the  enemy  mines  off  our  coasts  had 
been  laid  by  surface  ships  ;  but  from  that  date  onwards 
the  position  was  complicated  by  the  advent  of  the  UC- 
boats,  based  on  Flanders,  which  laid  their  mines  off  pro- 


minent  headlands  and  lightships  in  the  southern  portion 
of  the  North  Sea.     Off  such  places  as  the  Thames  Estuary, 
Lowestoft,  and  the  Kentish  coast,  they  endeavoured  to 
block  up  well-used  channels.     The  result  was,  obviously, 
to  put  a  good  deal  of  increased  work  on  the  trawlers  and 
paddlers.     This   new   phase   of  the   enemy's    policy   em- 
phasised   still    more    the    high    value    of    the    Auxiliary 
Patrol,  which  enabled  shipping  to  pursue  its  way  with  the 
minimum  of  risk.     It  is  inconceivable  that  the   port  of 
London,  for  instance,  could  have  received  and  dispatched 
so  much  shipping — and  therefore  goods — had  it  not  been 
for   the   reliance    placed  on  the  mine-sweeping   force    to 
seaward.     It  is  unnecessary  to  refer  to  the  increased  strain 
on    material    and    personnel    which   this    work   involved, 
because  that  is  obvious.     The  arrangements  had  to  be 
adjusted,    as   well   as   might   be,   to   the   new   conditions. 
Neither   destroyers    nor   torpedo   craft   could   be   spared. 
Engines  can  be  run  only  for  a  certain  length  of  time  ; 
ships  need  a  refit  every  half-year  :    in   like  manner,  the 
human  machine,  tuned  up  to  the  maximum  of  efficiency, 
can  do  only  a  limited  amount  of  work  and  then  it,  too, 
must  have  a  rest  or  break  down  utterly.     All  the  time, 
however,  cargoes  of  mines  were  being  brought  across  from 
Bruges  by  way  of  Zeebrugge,  dumped  down  off  the  south- 
east coast  lightships,  headlands,  buoys,  and  landmarks  in 
such  a  manner  that  special  sweeping  had  to  be  constantly 
carried  out.     Men  "  groused,"  and  officers  complained,  of 
this  ceaseless  nerve-wracking  turmoil ;    but  each  and  all 
realised  that  the  job  had  to  be  done  and  they  alone  could 
do  it.     Let  these  facts  stand  on  record. 

But  that  was  not  all.  Russia  was  still  our  Ally  and  had 
to  be  supplied  with  many  important  munitions  of  war. 
All  this  traffic  depended  on  the  Russian  approaches  being 
kept  clear  of  mines.  The  Germans  were  not  slow  to 
appreciate  this  fact  also,  and  in  June  sent  up  the  auxiliary 
cruiser  Meteor  (of  which  we  shall  have  something  to  say 
later)  on  a  mining  enterprise  to  the  White  Sea.  This 
vessel  left  Germany  escorted  by  a  submarine  and  laid 
285  mines  on  the  track  to  Archangel,  about  the 
beginning  of  June.  The  first  intimation  of  this  new 
mine-field  was  the  blowing  up  of  the  steamer  Arndale 
on  June  11th,  causing  the  loss  of  three  lives.  Between 
that  date  and  the  end  of  September  nine  other  merchant 

68  THE   FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [ch.  in 

ships,  of  British,  Russian,  Norwegian,  and  American 
nationality,  were  either  damaged  or  lost.  The  enemy's 
intention  was  obvious  :  he  realised  the  value  of  the  Russian 
offensive,  and  the  importance  of  the  sea  lane  by  which 
military  supplies  were  being  sent  into  Russia  through 

In  another  area  far  to  the  north  the  battle  between  the 
mine  and  the  sweeper  had,  therefore,  been  joined.  The 
enemy  had  laid  the  mines,  would  probably  lay  more,  and 
it  was  the  duty  of  British  auxiliary  vessels  to  assist  the 
Russians  in  sweeping  them  up  and  keeping  open  a 
clear  channel  as  long  as  the  ice  allowed.  Therefore  once 
more  the  much-wanted,  hard-worked  trawler  was  called 
in  to  bear  the  brunt  of  warfare.  At  Lowestoft  an  ex- 
pedition was  fitted  out  consisting  of  half  a  dozen  trawlers 
and  a  couple  of  supply  ships,  each  trawler  being  armed 
with  a  12- pounder  gun,  and  the  supply  ships  carrying  stores 
for  three  months.  These  trawlers  Avere  the  Bombardier, 
Sir  Mark  Sykes,  T.  R.  Ferens,  Granton,  Lord  Denman,  and 
St.  Cyr,  the  first-mentioned  being  fitted  with  wireless 
telegraphy.  Commander  L.  A.  Bernays,  R.N.,  was 
placed  in  charge  of  the  force.  He  was  unfortunately 
afterwards  killed  when  in  command  of  a  different  type  of 
ship  ;  he  had  left  the  Navy  and  emigrated  to  Canada, 
where  he  was  living  after  the  war  had  broken  out.  He 
returned  to  the  Navy,  and  had  from  the  first  succeeded 
in  infusing  something  of  his  own  enthusiasm  into  the 
Grimsby  trawlermen,  who  were  sent  with  him  to  sweep 
up  the  Scarborough  mine-field,  laid  in  December  1914. 
Commander  Bernays  had  a  curious  manner  of  maintaining 
discipline,  and  his  naval  outlook  had  been  tempered  by 
long  residence  in  Canada,  but  his  rough  crews  understood 
and  respected  him.  After  sweeping  in  the  North  Sea, 
he  had  been  employed  clearing  up  the  Tory  Island  mine- 
field, whither  he  had  insisted  on  taking  his  Grimsby 
trawlermen,  rugged  like  himself  in  speech  and  character. 
When  the  Admiralty  ordered  Commander  Bernays  to 
undertake  this  Russian  mine-sweeping  expedition,  they 
were  well  inspired. 

It  was  on  June  22nd  that  the  vessels  left  Lowestoft 
bound  first  for  Lerwick,  whence  they  crossed  the  North 
Sea,  reaching  Alexandrovsk  on  July  6th.  They  began 
immediately   their    mine-sweeping    operations.     By    July 


9th  several  mines  had  been  destroyed  ;  four  days  later 
the  trawler  T.  R.  Ferens  struck  a  mine  herself;  but  by 
the  eighteenth  of  July  this  expedition  had  done  such  good 
work  that  fifty  mines  had  been  destroyed.  By  August 
10th  the  force  had  been  increased  by  the  arrival  of  two 
more  trawlers  from  Lowestoft,  besides  a  collier.  By  the 
middle  of  August  there  were  still  no  Russian  patrol- vessels, 
for  there  was,  at  Archangel,  no  fishing  industry  on  which 
they  could  draw,  and  only  one  weak  little  steamer  was 
engaged  in  stopping  ships  off  Svyatoi  Nos.  The  enemy 
had  laid  his  mines  cunningly  off  headlands  and  athwart 
the  course  which  would  be  taken  by  shipping  between 
these  headlands.  In  September  Commander  Bernays  was 
recalled  to  be  employed  in  home  waters. 

On  October  2nd  the  armed  yacht  Mgusa  (afterwards 
lost  in  the  Mediterranean)  arrived  at  Yukanskie  from 
Aberdeen  with  Rear-Admiral  Philhmore,  who  reported 
that  by  the  middle  of  October  150  mines  had  been  de- 
stroyed by  our  White  Sea  trawlers  and  a  few  by  the  Russians, 
but  it  would  be  impossible  to  destroy  all  the  remaining 
mines  before  the  ice  set  in.  In  November  the  ice  set  in 
and  put  an  end  to  that  year's  campaign.  It  happened 
to  be  a  very  severe  and  early  winter. 

In  home  waters  there  was  so  much  work  for  the  fishermen 
and  their  craft  that  the  dispatch  of  additional  vessels  to 
the  Baltic  could  not  be  justified.  The  attack  on  our 
fishing-fleets  by  August  had  become  serious,  and  the 
fine  weather  was  all  in  favour  of  the  smaller  sub- 
marines which  came  over  the  North  Sea  from  Flanders. 
Especially  was  this  the  case  in  the  vicinity  of  Lowestoft, 
where  the  fishing-fleet  was  scattered  from  Smith's  Knoll 
all  round  the  banks  to  the  northward.  Again,  therefore, 
subtlety  had  to  be  allied  with  courage.  The  Senior  Naval 
Officer  at  Lowestoft  decided  to  commission  four  fishing- 
smacks,  arm  them  with  a  3-pounder  each  and  send  them 
off  to  the  fishing- grounds  so  that  it  was  impossible  for 
even  a  friend,  let  alone  a  foe,  to  discriminate  between 
armed  decoy  smacks  and  those  unarmed.  The  following 
incident,  the  first  of  its  Ivind,  well  illustrates  the  class 
of  work  which  these  sailing-vessels  carried  out.  Incident- 
ally it  is  pertinent  to  remark  that  a  year  previously  no  one 
would  have  dared  to  have  suggested  that  a  fore  and  aft 
rigged  sailing-vessel  could  ever  again  become  a  man-of-war. 

70  THE   FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [cu.  iii 

By  August  8tli  four  of  these  sailing  fishing-smacks  had 
been  commissioned.  They  left  Lowestoft  with  their 
crews  dressed  in  all  respects  like  fishermen,  and  with 
nothing  on  deck  or  as  to  their  rig  suggesting  that  they 
were  other  than  peaceful  craft,  meet  victims  for  the  first 
enemy  submarine  which  might  come  along.  Thus  on 
the  11th  of  August  the  Lowestoft  smack  G.  and  E.  put  to 
sea.  Her  crew  consisted  of  Lieutenant  C.  E.  Hamond, 
R.N.,  her  real  skipper  (F.  W.  Moxey)  temporarily  enrolled 
as  second  hand  R.N.R.  (T.),  Petty  Officer  Elhs,  R.N., 
Second-hand  Page,  temporarily  enrolled  as  deck  hand 
R.N.R.  (T.),  Leading  Seaman  J.  Warman,  R.N.,  as  gun- 
layer,  Third-hand  H.  Alexander,  temporarily  enrolled  as 
deck  hand  R.N.R.  (T.),  and  Able  Seaman  K.  Hammond, 
R.N.  There  was  thus  an  admixture  of  her  original  crew 
with  experienced  naval  fighting  men.  At  1  p.m.  this 
smack  was  about  five  miles  south  of  Smith's  Knoll  Buoy 
when  a  submarine  came  to  the  surface  three  miles  south-east 
of  the  smack  Leader,  which  was  a  mile  south  of  the  G.  and  E. 
First  of  all  the  enemy  closed  the  Leader  and  ordered  the  crew 
to  launch  their  boat  and  go  alongside  the  submarine.  The 
enemy  then  made  use  of  this  boat  to  place  a  bomb  in  the 
Leader,  which  blew  up,  after  which  the  fishermen  were 
again  placed  in  their  boat  and  cast  adrift.  "  So  far  so 
good,"  thought  the  Germans  ;  "we  shall  now  deal  with  the 
smack  G.  and  E.  in  the  same  manner."  As  the  submarine 
was  seen  approaching  this  smack,  the  crew  of  the  G.  and  E. 
pretended  to  be  getting  out  their  rowing-boat,  and  this 
business  was  kept  up  until  the  enemy  had  closed  to  some 
forty  yards  and  had  slewed  to  a  position  parallel  with  her 
intended  victim. 

This  was  the  smack's  opportunity.  Lieutenant  Hamond 
issued  a  short  sharp  order,  up  went  the  White  Ensign, 
and  off  went  the  gun.  There  was  not  a  moment's 
delay.  No  one  could  afford  to  make  a  mistake  ;  they 
were  at  too  close  quarters  for  that ;  and  one  of  the 
two  was  certain  to  perish  speedily.  The  duel,  in  fact, 
was  so  short  that  the  smack  fired  only  five  rounds  from 
her  little  3-pounder.  Three  of  these  shots  penetrated  the 
conning-tower — for  it  was  impossible  at  that  point-blank 
range  to  miss — but  the  gun  had  to  be  depressed  so  much 
that  the  fourth  and  fifth  shots  actually  struck  the  smack's 
rail,  though  one  afterwards  penetrated  the  base  of  the 





cii.  Ill]         FISHING   SMACK    V.  SUBMARINE  71 

conning-tower.  Petty  Officer  Ellis  also  succeeded  in 
killing  with  his  rifle  one  man  who  was  in  the  conning- 
tower.  With  great  rapidity  the  submarine  dived  at  a 
very  high  angle,  nose  first,  having  been  taken  completely 
by  surprise.  So  great  was  her  hurry  to  submerge  that  she 
left  the  body  of  this  man  on  the  conning-tower.  She  never 
came  up  again.  There  was  great  joy  among  the  Lowes- 
toft fishermen  that  this  small  but  dangerous  German  war- 
ship from  the  Flemish  coast  had  been  got  rid  of  so  neatly. 

There  were  other  instances  of  this  successful  armed 
smack  warfare,  and  they  certainly  taught  the  invaders  of 
Belgium  that  British  seamen  were  skilful  in  stratagem  as 
well  as  brave.  A  well-deserved  D.S.C.  was  awarded  to 
Lieutenant  Hamond.  This  engagement  furnished  an 
admirable  example  of  the  way  in  which  the  Royal 
Navy  and  the  Merchant  Navy  co-operated  during  the 
war  with  the  sole  object  of  defeating  the  Germans. 
To  the  plain,  blunt  seamanship  of  the  latter  came  the 
aid  of  the  former's  fighting  skill.  Such  was  the  peculiar 
temperament  of  the  German,  however,  that  he  became 
very  angry  when  he  learned  of  the  way  mere  sailing-smacks 
were  destroying  his  ingeniously  built  craft,  and  threats 
were  sent  in  to  Lowestoft  by  other  submarines  through 
the  medium  of  the  crews  of  our  fishing-vessels  which  were 
sunk  later  on.  But  not  even  these  threats  prevented  the 
hardy  North  Sea- men  from  going  about  their  work.  Nelson 
himself  was  an  East  Anglian.  In  years  to  come  descend- 
ants of  the  men  of  the  twentieth  century  who  confronted 
the  enemy  by  sea  will  be  moved  to  wonder  and  admir- 
ation when  they  realise  that,  in  spite  of  the  progress  of 
physical  science,  little  sailing-ships  of  wood,  without 
mechanical  power,  met  in  close  combat  and  destroyed 
steel  vessels  which  could  alike  go  ahead  or  astern,  and 
make  themselves  invisible. 

The  problem  of  the  fisherman  from  the  beginning  to  the 
end  of  the  war  was  no  easy  one.  If  the  naval  authorities 
had  stopped  all  fishing  a  most  important  industry 
would  have  been  killed,  causing  distress  and  unem- 
ployment, besides  depriving  the  nation  of  one  of  its 
principal  articles  of  food.  On  the  other  hand,  if  they 
allowed  fishing  to  continue,  losses  from  mines,  torpedoes, 
and  gunfire  and  bombs  could  not  be  avoided.  There  is 
a  tendency  to  minimise  the  value  of  the  fishing  trade. 

72  THE   FISHERMEN'S   ORDEAL  [en.  iii 

At  the  beginning  of  the  war  it  employed  in  England  and 
Wales  alone  44,000  men  and  about  216,000  tons  of  sea- 
going craft.  In  addition,  there  must  be  reckoned  many 
thousands  of  persons  engaged  in  the  distribution  and 
curing  of  fish,  The  fish  supply  was  the  equivalent,  accord- 
ing to  the  Ministry  of  Agriculture  and  Fisheries,  of  nearly 
half  the  total  amount  of  meat  annually  consumed  in  the 
British  Isles,  and  of  this  supply  about  seven-eighths  were 
landed  at  coast  ports.  It  came  to  this  then,  that  these 
fishermen  were,  after  the  declaration  of  war,  pursuing  their 
calling  in  what  a  soldier  would  designate  "  no  man's  land," 
After  the  first  few  months  of  hostilities  most  of  the  best 
ships  and  the  most  active  personnel  had  joined  the  Navy. 
Approximately  50  per  cent,  of  the  fishermen  were  serving 
under  the  White  Ensign,  and  the  rest  had  to  carry  on  their 
work  among  mines  and  submarines  as  best  they  could. 
The  ordinary  dangers  of  the  sea  were,  of  course,  present 
as  before  ;  but  owing  to  the  removal  of  the  lightships,  and 
the  dowsing  of  innumerable  shore  lights,  the  absence  of 
buoys,  and  the  introduction  of  new  channels  and  routes, 
their  lot  was  not  made  any  the  easier. 

Inasmuch  as  the  North  Sea  was  the  main  naval  theatre 
of  the  war,  until  the  submarines  started  operating  off  the 
western  side  of  the  British  Isles,  from  a  strictly  naval  point 
of  view  there  would  have  been  advantages  in  forbidding 
any  fishing-craft  from  working  in  that  area.  It  would 
have  certainly  made  matters  easier  for  the  Grand  Fleet 
in  its  periodical  sweeps  down  the  North  Sea,  and  it  would 
have  lightened  the  duties  of  the  patrols.  It  must  be 
admitted  that  at  the  beginning  of  the  war  the  Navy 
looked  upon  these  craft  rather  as  a  nuisance  ;  but  when 
it  was  found  that  these  trawlers  were  the  means  of  dis- 
covering unsuspected  mine-fields,  they  were  regarded  in 
a  very  different  light. 

Once  definite  conclusions  had  been  reached  as  to  the 
usefulness  of  the  fishermen,  the  craft  had  to  be  pro- 
tected in  some  way.  It  was  the  Navy's  duty  to  see 
that  this  was  done,  but  that  meant  detaching  vessels 
from  purely  offensive  operations.  During  the  summer 
of  the  year  1915  the  losses  of  both  steam  and  sailing 
fishing-craft  were  very  heavy,  and  insurance  rates  soared 
up.  In  August  the  question  was  again  raised  as  to  whether, 
from  the  naval  point  of  view,  it  was  desirable  to  allow  these 


vessels  to  continue  their  fishing.  The  whole  matter  was 
carefully  investigated  by  the  Admiralty  afresh.  Admiral 
Ballard,  who  was  commanding  most  of  the  East  Coast  area, 
stated  very  truly  that  fishing-trawlers  were  keenly  on  the 
lookout  for  anything  suspicious  and  offered  considerable 
obstacles  to  the  free  navigation  of  enemy  submarines. 
Every  trawl,  warp,  or  drift  net  was  a  potential  source  of 
trouble,  and  in  at  least  one  case  a  U-boat  got  her  periscope 
foul  of  a  trawler's  wire  and  was  thrown  on  her  beam  ends. 
The  Dutch  fishing- fleets  were  still  allowed  to  work  in  the 
North  Sea,  and  if  British  fishing-fleets  were  withdrawn, 
it  would  mean  that  we  should  require  at  least  150  more 
armed  patrols. 

At  this  time  the  total  number  of  trawlers  fishing  off 
the  East  Coast  was  about  350,  most  of  which  belonged 
to  the  Humber.  The  Hull  fleet  was  under  the  control 
of  a  fishing  "  Admiral,"  and  every  morning  fish-carriers 
met  the  vessels  at  sea  and  took  the  fish  to  London  ; 
otherwise  trawlers  fished  independently.  The  obvious 
solution  of  the  difficulty  was  some  sort  of  control  over 
these  fleets  under  Admiralty  organisation.  This  Admiral 
Jellicoe  advocated.  Both  he  and  Commodore  Tyrwhitt 
were  in  favour  of  allowing  the  trawlers  to  continue  fishing. 
But  the  regulation  and  control  of  their  movements  were 
not  easy,  though  eventually  the  difficulties  were  sur- 
mounted. For  the  present  it  was  clear  that  the  advantages 
of  maintaining  fishing-fleets  at  sea  were  sufficient  to  war- 
rant the  insurance  of  these  vessels  at  a  premium  lower  than 
what  would  be  justified  from  the  purely  financial  point  of 
view,  and  this  was  the  decision  to  which  the  Admiralty 
came  in  the  middle  of  October.  In  the  year  1917  a  really 
satisfactory  system  was  introduced,  by  which  these  vessels 
fished  together  in  groups  under  Naval  control,  a  sufficient 
number  in  each  group  being  armed  at  least  to  enable  some 
sort  of  fight  to  be  put  up  with  any  submarine  that  came 
along ;  one  of  the  trawlers  was  also  fitted  with  wireless. 
This  meant  commissioning  the  trawlers  and  placing  them 
under  the  command  of  the  Senior  Naval  Officers  of  their 
respective  ports  and  they  thus  became,  in  fact  though  not 
in  name,  part  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol.  But  this  evolution 
took  time,  and  it  was  only  as  the  result  of  many  hardly 
learned  lessons  that  it  came  about. 



If  an  adequate  conception  is  to  be  formed  of  the  manner 
in  which  the  Mercantile  Marine  supported  the  national 
effort  by  sea  and  by  land  in  the  early  days  of  the  war,  some 
account  must  be  given  of  the  movement  of  troops  oversea. 
The  transport  of  war  is  the  merchant  ship  of  peace,  usually 
a  passenger  vessel  when  the  change  of  status  occurs  ; 
the  crew  of  merchant  officers  and  men  remains.  It  was 
not  the  policy  of  this  country  to  support  a  separate  and 
distinct  transport  service,  though  it  could  use  its  army, 
apart  from  the  needs  of  home  defence,  only  if  it  had  facili- 
ties for  moving  it  by  sea.  Reliance  was  placed  on  the 
authority  of  the  Admiralty  to  requisition  whatever  tonnage 
was  required  for  the  movement  of  troops  when  the  emer- 
gency arose. 

The  army  of  an  island  Power,  the  axis  of  a  maritime 
Empire  embracing  nearly  one-quarter  of  the  land  surface 
of  the  globe,  is  dependent  for  movement  upon  merchant 
shipping,  and  for  protection  while  afloat  the  heavily  laden 
transports  must  rely  upon  the  Navy  confronted  with  many 
other  duties.  As  events  were  to  show,  the  enemy  con- 
ducted his  operations  below  the  surface  as  well  as  on 
the  surface.  In  that  respect,  as  well  as  in  others,  the 
transport  movement,  which  began  in  August  1914,  differed 
from  anything  which  had  been  attempted  before. 

The  mobilisation  of  the  military  forces  on  August  4th 
brought  into  operation,  under  conditions  which  it  had 
been  impossible  to  foresee  in  anything  approaching  com- 
pleteness, the  plans  for  transport  oversea,  which  had  been 
prepared  by  the  Admiralty  in  consultation  with  the  War 
Office.  The  interdependence  of  naval  and  military  policy 
was  speedily  demonstrated  in  a  manner  of  which  the  public 
generally  had  no  knowledge  at  the  time,  for,  after  the 
British    ultimatum    had    been    dispatched    to     Germany, 



complete  secrecy  was  observed  as  to  the  naval  and  military 
arrangements  which  were  speedily  carried  out  in  order  to 
put  the  British  Empire  on  a  war  footing.  The  silence 
suggested  that  the  country  had  been  caught  unprepared  ; 
but  behind  the  fog  of  war  a  transport  movement  was 
inaugurated,  unparalleled  in  character  and  extent  in  the 
history  of  any  country.  The  reorganisation  of  the  British 
Army,  which  had  been  in  progress  from  1902  down  to  the 
opening  of  the  war,  suddenly,  though  not  unexpectedly 
to  the  departments  concerned,  reacted  on  naval  conditions, 
and  within  a  few  weeks  a  large  number  of  merchant  ships 
were  engaged  in  a  great  transport  movement,  world-wide 
in  its  extent,  in  face  of  the  undefeated  naval  forces  of  the 
second  greatest  sea  Power  in  the  world. 

The  oversea  transport  of  large  military  forces  calls  for 
the  closest  co-operation  between  naval  and  military  depart- 
ments, and  demands,  perhaps,  a  higher  degree  of  technical 
efficiency  in  all  the  elements  concerned  than  any  other 
operation  of  war,  particularly  if  the  movement  is  carried 
out  in  face  of  an  enemy  fleet  which  has  not  revealed  its 
intentions.  The  operation  is  facilitated  when  the  soldiers 
can  be  disembarked  on  a  friendly  shore,  but  even  in  that 
case  there  remain  the  perils  of  the  oversea  passage,  the 
imminence  of  which  so  impressed  many  British  seamen 
that,  down  to  the  summer  of  1914,  it  was  an  axiom,  accepted 
by  many  high  authorities,  that  troops  should  not  be 
moved  by  sea  until  the  enemy's  naval  forces  had  been 
either  defeated  or  definitely  thrown  back  on  the  defensive. 
In  the  early  days  of  August  1914  the  strategic  policy  to 
be  adopted  at  sea  by  the  enemy  was  undisclosed,  but 
British  merchant  seamen,  placing  complete  reliance  on 
the  sufficiency  and  efficiency  of  the  British  Fleet,  co- 
operated in  the  great  transport  movement  with  singleness 
of  purpose,  confidence  in  the  adequacy  of  the  arrangements 
for  their  safe  passage,  and  complete  subordination  of 
their  own  interests  to  the  interests  of  the  State. 

Many  expeditions  across  the  sea  had  been  carried  out 
since  the  close  of  the  Napoleonic  struggle,  but,  down  to 
the  South  African  War,  in  only  four  instances  had  the 
number  of  troops  been  considerable.  The  French  dis- 
patched on  the  short  voyage  to  Algeria  in  1830  37,000 
infantry,  4,000  cavalry,  and  a  proportionate  number  of 
guns  ;    for  the  invasion  of  the  Crimea  in  1854  the  forces 

76  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF   FIRST   TROOPS     [cii.  iv 

of  the  Allies  numbered  about  53,000  men ;  the  army  of  the 
Potomac,  which  was  transported  from  Washington  to 
Fort  Monroe  in  1861,  was  relatively  a  small  one  ;  and 
for  the  British  expedition  to  Egypt  in  1882  85,720  officers 
and  men  were  landed  at  Alexandria,  Ismailia,  and  Suez. 
During  the  South  African  War,  1899-1902,  396,021  officers 
and  men  were  carried  to  South  Africa  from  the  British 
Isles,  India,  and  the  Colonies,  but  that  movement  was 
spread  over  a  period  of  two  years  and  eight  months.  The 
first  orders  for  the  reinforcements  were  on  a  small  scale, 
and  were  carried  out  slowly. 

"  The  decision  to  reinforce  the  British  troops  in  Natal 
was  arrived  at  by  the  Cabinet  on  the  8th  of  September. 
More  than  a  month  later,  October  12th,  the  first  shot  was 
fired  ;  but  not  till  six  weeks  after  the  decision  to  reinforce 
did  units  from  home  begin  to  leave  the  country,  and  these 
troops  had  to  travel  more  than  7,000  miles  before  they 
could  affect  the  situation  at  the  front.  At  this  crisis 
the  whole  force  available  at  home  was  dispatched.  It 
consisted  of  two  battalions  of  infantry  and  a  brigade 
division  (three  batteries)  of  field  artillery."  ^ 

At  the  close  of  the  South  African  War,  steps  were  taken 
to  remodel  the  army,  and  these  measures  reacted  on  the 
transport  arrangements.  It  was  originally  proposed  to 
provide  a  "  striking  force  "  of  80,000  men,  and  plans  were 
considered  for  organising  the  necessary  sea  transport 
on  that  basis.  After  Lord  Haldane  became  Secretary  of 
State  for  War,  an  Imperial  General  Staff  was  developed, 
the  oversea  force  was  further  expanded  to  164,000  officers 
and  men,  and  the  watchword  of  the  new  military  regime 
was  "  quick  mobilisation."  It  was  realised  that  the 
value  of  the  Expeditionary  Force  would  depend  largely 
on  the  rapidity  with  which  it  could  be  mobilised  and 
embarked  for  oversea  passage.  The  plans  of  the  military 
authorities  having  been  prepared  and  tested,  as  far  as  that 
was  possible,  it  rested  with  the  Transport  Department  of 
the  Admiralty  to  complete  the  scheme  by  providing 
adequate  and  suitable  transport  for  the  troops  as  soon  as 
they  reached  the  water  side,  thus  avoiding  delay. 

1  The  Army  in  1906,  by  the  Rt.  Hon.  H.  O.  Arnold  Foster,  late  Secretary 
of  State  for  War. 


A  country  which  embarks  upon  an  aggressive  war  can 
fix  the  date  for  the  declaration  of  the  opening  of  hostihties, 
and  lay  its  plans  many  months  ahead,  drawing  up  a 
schedule  for  the  mobilisation  and  transport  of  troops. 
A  Power  which  acts  on  the  defensive  is  necessarily  at  a 
disadvantage.  But,  apart  from  the  uncertainty  as  to 
when  the  ships,  ordinary  merchant  ships  engaged  in 
peaceful  trading,  would  be  required,  the  difficulties  asso- 
ciated with  British  military  transport  in  1914  were  not 
lessened  by  the  necessary  absence  of  full  knowledge  in 
preceding  months  of  the  part  which  the  British  Army 
might  have  to  take  in  war,  whether  in  defending  oversea 
portions  of  the  Empire  or  in  supporting  the  French  Army 
on  the  Continent. 

In  the  years  before  the  opening  of  the  war,  the  Govern- 
ment had  definitely  refrained  from  giving  a  pledge  of 
military  support  to  France.  But  on  August  3rd,  1914,  the 
Minister  for  Foreign  Affairs  stated,  in  the  course  of  a  speech 
in  the  House  of  Commons,  that  for  many  months  previously 
"  conversations  had  taken  place  between  the  chief  naval 
and  military  experts  of  Great  Britain  and  France  with  a 
view  to  joint  action  if  the  necessity  should  arise."  On 
this  occasion  the  Foreign  Minister  read  a  letter  which  he 
had  addressed  to  the  French  Ambassador  on  November 
22nd,  1912,  in  proof  that  "  these  conversations  were  not 
binding  on  the  freedom  of  either  Government."  In  that 
letter,  in  the  terms  of  which  the  French  Government 
concurred,  the  Foreign  Minister  stated  :  "  I  agree  that 
if  either  Government  have  grave  reasons  to  expect  an 
unprovoked  attack  by  a  third  Power  or  something  which 
threatens  the  general  peace,  it  should  immediately  discuss 
with  the  other  whether  both  Governments  should  not  act 
together  to  prevent  aggression  and  to  preserve  peace,  and 
if  so,  what  measures  they  would  be  prepared  to  take  in 

That,  as  the  Foreign  Minister  pointed  out,  was  the  start- 
ing-point for  the  Government  when  the  crisis  developed 
in  the  summer  of  1914.  "  The  Government,"  he  declared, 
"remain  perfectly  free."  He  added  that  "the  Triple 
Entente  was  not  an  alliance  but  a  diplomatic  group," 
and  "  we  do  not  construe  anything  which  has  previously 
taken  place  in  our  diplomatic  relations  with  other  Powers 
in  this  matter  as  restricting  the  freedom  of  the  Government 

78  SEA   TRANSPORT  OF   FIRST  TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

to  decide  what  action  it  should  take  now  or  restricting  the 
freedom  of  the  House  of  Commons  to  decide  what  their 
action  shall  be."  It  was  in  these  political  circumstances 
that  the  plans  for  the  transport  of  British  military  forces 
in  the  event  of  war  had  to  be  prepared.  The  point  is  of 
some  importance,  since  it  illustrates  the  embarrassments 
which  an  uncertain  outlook  in  the  diplomatic  field,  in 
association  with  a  defensive  policy,  may  throw  upon 
public  departments,  which  in  case  of  failure  must  be  pre- 
pared to  accept  censure. 

The  transport  of  the  British  Army  must  always  be  of  a 
complicated  character,  owing  to  the  responsibility  for 
garrisoning  oversea  bases,  and  the  necessity  of  keeping  a 
large  force  of  British  troops  in  India.  The  Army  Estimates 
for  the  financial  year  1914-15  made  provision  for  727,232 
officers  and  men,  besides  75,987  British  troops  on  the 
Indian  establishment.  That  aggregate  included  the 
Regular  Forces,  the  Army  Reserve,  the  Special  Reserves, 
the  Militia,  and  the  Territorial  Force.  The  Regular  Army 
was  distributed  between  Home  and  Foreign  stations  as 
follows  : 

At  Home. 



Cavalry  Regiments 




R.H.A.  Batteries 




R.F.A.  Batteries      . 




Mountain  Batteries. 




Garrison  Artillery  Companies 




R.E.  Companies 




Guards  Battalions    . 




Infantry  Battalions 




The  Indian  Army  establishments  consisted  of  2,751 
officers  and  161,081  other  ranks,  with  35,700  Reservists. 
In  addition,  there  were  an  Indian  Volunteer  Force,  con- 
sisting of  Europeans  and  Anglo-Indians,  of  about  1,500 
officers  and  37,000  other  ranks,  and  about  20,000  Imperial 
Service  Troops.  Each  of  the  British  Dominions  also 
possessed  the  nucleus  of  a  military  force. 

Immediately  war  was  declared,  the  predominant  problem 
was  how  the  varied  and  not  inconsiderable,  if,  in  some 
respects,  untrained,  military  resources  of  the  Empire  could 
be  best  utilised  for  the  defence  of  the  world-wide  Empire 

CH.  IV]       THE   PART   OF   THE   JMERCHANT  NAVY     79 

itself  against  possible  dangers  and  for  the  promotion  of  the 
Allied  cause.  The  impression,  current  at  the  outbreak  of 
war,  that  the  Merchant  Navy  became  responsible  only 
for  the  movement  of  the  Expeditionary  Force  to  France 
was  based  upon  a  misapprehension,  both  of  the  prepara- 
tions which  had  been  made  by  the  Transport  Department 
of  the  Admiralty,  and  of  the  plans  which  Lord  Kitchener 
drew  up  on  taking  office  as  Secretary  of  State  for  War  on 
August  5th  for  the  redistribution  of  the  military  forces  of 
the  Empire.  The  Secretary  of  State  for  War  accepted  the 
transport  arrangements  which  had  already  been  made  for 
carrying  the  Expeditionary  Force  across  the  Channel,  and 
he  conceived  a  further  plan  of  imperial  mobilisation  which 
threw  upon  the  Merchant  Navy  a  greatly  increased  and 
unexpected  burden.  Finally,  after  consultation  between 
the  Mother  Country  and  the  Dominions,  the  Dominion 
authorities  prepared  plans  for  bringing  considerable  bodies 
of  newly  raised  troops  from  Canada,  Australia,  and  New 
Zealand,  further  increasing  the  responsibilities  of  the 
Mercantile  Marine  as  well  as  the  Royal  Navy.  In  effect, 
Lord  Kitchener  determined,  while  throwing  the  Expedi- 
tionary Force  on  the  Continent,  to  carry  out  a  "  general 
post  "  of  the  military  forces  of  the  Empire,  involving  a 
widespread  movement  of  transports  crowded  with  officers 
and  men  in  all  the  seas  and  oceans  of  the  world  at  a  time 
when  the  enemy  fleets  were  still  undefeated. 

The  power  of  moving  armies  across  the  sea  was  a  deciding 
factor  in  the  victory  of  the  Allied  and  Associated  Powers 
in  the  Great  War.  The  problem  presented  two  difficulties  : 
(1)  ensuring  the  security  of  the  troops  in  transit  against 
danger  from  enemy  surface  craft,  submarines,  and  sub- 
marine mines,  and  (2)  the  provision  and  handling  of 
shipping  to  accommodate  the  military  personnel,  animals, 
vehicles,  and  stores  of  all  kinds  required  for  military  use. 
The  first  problem  was  one  for  the  Navy,  and  this  important 
phase  of  naval  strategy  is  dealt  with  elsewhere. ^  It  is 
proposed  to  deal  here  with  the  part  taken  by  the  British 
Mercantile  Marine  in  overcoming  the  second  difficulty,  the 
provision  and  handling  of  shipping  and  the  essential 
auxiliary  services. 

By  the  last  month  of  the  war  about  520  British  vessels, 
ranging  from  ships  of  500  tons  gross  to  the  largest  passenger 

^  Naval  Operations,  by  Sir  Julian  Corbett. 
II— 7 

80  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST   TROOPS     [ch.  iv 

liners,  were  being  employed  on  British  military  services. 
Their  tonnage  was  about  1,750,000  gross,  and  that  repre- 
sented   approximately   the    average    amount    of   tonnage 
continuously  devoted  to  this  service  throughout  the  war, 
excepting  in  the  very  early  stages  when  the  armies  operating 
overseas  were  smaller,  and  less  tonnage  sufficed  to  meet 
their   requirements.     A   very  important    principle   to   be 
borne  in  mind  when  deciding  upon  an  oversea  military 
operation  is  that  it  is  not  only  a  question  of  providing 
tonnage  once  for  all  for  the   actual  troop  movements  ; 
there  must  always  be  an  aftermath  of  demands  for  trans- 
port of  stores,  ammunition,  and  reinforcing  drafts  in  one 
direction,  and  of  sick  and  wounded,  and  maybe  prisoners 
of  war,  in  the  other.     The  proportion  of  tonnage  required 
for  these  purposes  depends  upon  the  nature  of  the  military 
forces  employed,  of  the  character  of  the  operations  upon 
which  they  are  engaged,  and    upon   the    nature    of   the 
theatre  of  war  in  which  they  are  to  operate.     There  is 
much  to  be  learned  from  the  numbers  of  men  and  weights 
of  stores  transported  from  a  land  base  to  and  from  an  army 
in    the   field   by  railways,  motor  lorries,  horsed  wagons, 
and   other   forms   of  land   transport.     This   information, 
which  has  an  important  bearing  upon  land  strategy,  does 
not,  however,  come  within  the  scope  of  this  history.     We 
are,  however,  concerned  with  another  aspect  of  the  matter. 
After  an  army  has  been  landed  at  an  oversea  base,  the 
responsibility   for   maintaining   this    constant    stream    of 
traffic    across  the  sea  falls  upon  the  Mercantile  Marine, 
which  links  up  the  oversea  army  with  the  home  country. 
In    such   circumstances    the    commanders    of   an    insular 
army  are  as  dependent  upon  shipping  for  their  strategy 
as  they  are  upon  railways  and  other  forms  of  land  transport. 
The  military  strategist  handling  an  army  in  a  peninsula 
or  other  theatre  of  war  with  a  large  proportion  of  coast- 
line can  sometimes  take  advantage  of  sea  command  to 
change  his  base  of  operations  ;    he  can  thus  shorten  his 
lines  of  communications  and  alter  their  direction.     Acting 
on  these   principles   in  the   Peninsular  War,  Wellington, 
commanding  a  comparatively  small  military  force,  changed 
his  base  from  Lisbon  to  Santander  and  other  ports  on  the 
north  coast  of  Spain.     In  the  Egyptian  War  of  1882  the 
British  base  was  changed  suddenly  from  Alexandria  to 
Ismailia.     Kuroki,    in    the    Russo-Japanese    War,    would 


have  been  unable  to  advance  through  Korea  from  Chemulpo 
to  the  Yalu  had  it  not  been  for  constant  changes  of 
base  to  other  more  northerly  places  on  the  coast,  and 
history  affords  many  similar  examples.  It  is  doubtful 
whether  the  British  Army  could  have  intervened  in  the 
first  battle  of  the  Marne  had  it  not  been  for  the  help  of 
the  Mercantile  Marine  in  the  change  of  base  from  Havre 
to  St.  Nazaire  and  Nantes  on  the  River  Loire,  to  which 
important  operation  special  reference  must  be  made  later. 
A  just  appreciation  of  the  services  which  the  Mercantile 
Marine  rendered  in  the  transport  of  troops  can  be  formed 
only  in  the  knowledge  that  by  land  and  sea,  lines  of  com- 
munication for  armies  reveal  the  same  principle  ;  the 
longer  the  line,  the  greater  the  amount  of  transport 
required  in  proportion  to  the  strength  of  the  army. 
Although  the  actual  amount  of  tonnage  per  man  and 
horse  may  be  the  same  for  the  troops  actually  transported, 
the  number  of  ships  required  for  subsequent  services  in- 
creases enormously  with  the  distance  of  the  oversea  theatre 
of  war  from  the  home  base.  The  operations  in  France 
and  Flanders  were  vastly  more  economical  in  shipping 
and  protective  measures  than  the  operations  in  distant 

(a)  The  Expeditionary  Force  to  France  (B.E.F.) 

As  has  been  indicated,  the  only  operation  for  which 
it  had  been  possible  to  make  preparations,  and  those 
of  a  tentative  character,  was  the  transport  of  the 
original  British  Expeditionary  Force  across  the  Channel. 
When  the  emergency  occurred,  it  was  only  necessary  to 
bring  the  scheme  up-to-date,  to  ascertain  the  names  of 
vessels  available  in  home  waters  at  the  time,  and  to 
introduce  a  few  amendments  necessitated  by  original  over- 
estimates of  the  capacity  of  the  French  harbours  for 
handling  the  traffic  with  sufficient  speed.  Orders  were 
issued  on  August  5th,  1914,  for  the  scheme  to  be  put  into 
execution.  It  was  at  first  intended  that  August  7th 
should  be  the  first  day  of  embarkation,  but  ultimately 
the  date  was  fixed  as  August  9th.  The  original  plan 
provided  for  the  embarkation  of  six  divisions,  cavalry  and 
line  of  communication  troops,  but  two  divisions  (the  4th 
and  6th)  were  taken  out  of  the  scheme  when  the  order  to 

82  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST  TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

embark  was  issued.  The  4th  Division  was  subsequently 
reinstated  on  the  hst  and  began  to  embark  on  August  22nd, 
and  fought  at  Le  Cateau  on  the  26th  ;  and  the  6th  Division, 
from  Ireland,  was  transported  to  England  and  conveyed 
to  France  on  September  8th  and  9th.  The  Merchant  Ser- 
vice rose  to  the  occasion  so  well  that  the  necessary  trans- 
ports were  ready,  as  a  rule,  the  day  before  they  were  required, 
although  in  some  cases  the  necessary  refitting  of  vessels 
for  the  carriage  of  men  and  horses  occupied  from  two  to  six 
days.  As  the  embarkation  proceeded,  it  was  found  to  be 
possible  to  expedite  the  programme.  The  moves  originally 
fixed  for  the  13th  day  were  carried  out  on  the  12th  day, 
and  those  for  the  14th  on  the  13th  day.  In  other  respects 
the  embarkation  followed  exactly  the  lines  originally  laid 
down.  In  actual  experience  the  military  were  in  charge 
of  the  troops,  equipment,  etc.,  until  the  wharves  were 
reached.  The  Navy's  responsibility  began  when  the  troops 
were  on  board  and  ended  when  they  had  been  landed  on 
the  overseas  wharves. 

Up  to  August  23rd  the  troops  and  military  resources 
were  landed  at  Boulogne,  Le  Havre,  and  Rouen.  From  that 
date  until  August  31st  at  Le  Havre  and  Rouen.  Then  came 
the  change  of  base,  of  vital  importance  to  the  British  war 
strategy,  to  which  reference  has  already  been  made. 
Between  August  31st  and  September  16th  the  disembarka- 
tion ports  were  St.  Nazaire  and  Nantes  on  the  River  Loire. 
From  September  16th,  owing  to  the  more  favourable  situa- 
tion resulting  from  the  first  battle  of  the  Marne,  the  service 
to  Le  Havre  and  Rouen  was  partially  resumed. 

Southampton  was  the  principal  port  of  embarkation  for 
troops.  The  following  table  shows  the  numbers  embarked 
at  English  and  Irish  ports  between  August  9th  and 
September  21st : 



Other  Ranks. 


Nursing  Sisters 
and  Civilians. 

Newhaven     . 
Avonmouth  . 
Devonport    . 
Dublin           .          .            ( 
Belfast           .          .           } 
Queenstown .           .            [ 



















These  figures  give  some  idea  of  the  strain  brought  upon 
the  British  Mercantile  Marine  to  meet  the  demand  for 
transference  of  the  Expeditionary  Force  to  France.  In 
addition  to  personnel  and  horses,  93,364  tons  is  a  minimum 
estimate  of  the  amount  of  ammunition,  stores,  vehicles, 
etc.,  carried  to  the  same  destination  for  the  Army,  distri- 
buted as  follows  :  Ammunition  for  guns  :  3,984  tons,  for 
small  arms  2,185  tons  ;  food :  31,509  tons  ;  forage : 
21,364  tons  ;  petrol :  1,006,462  gallons  ;  vehicles  :  12,162 
tons  ;  stores  :  25,080  tons.  These  figures  were  dwarfed 
by  the  vast  amount  of  tonnage  occupied  for  military  pur- 
poses when  the  large  new  armies  took  the  field  on  the 
Western  Front  and  in  other  theatres  of  war  ;  when  ex- 
penditure of  ammunition  was  on  a  scale  undreamed  of, 
and  trench  stores,  new  weapons,  and  tanks  were  intro- 
duced ;  but  the  figures  serve  as  a  useful  corrective  to  the 
prevalent  idea  that  sea  transport  of  armies  is  a  simple 
matter  of  embarking  and  disembarking  personnel  and 

The  general  allocation  to  various  ports  of  embarkation 
had  been  arranged  as  follows : — Southampton,  Dublin, 
Glasgow,  Queenstown,  Belfast,  and  Jersey :  troops  and 
horses  ;  Newhaven :  stores  ;  Liverpool :  mechanical 
transport  and  frozen  meat ;  Avonmouth :  mechanical 
transport  and  petrol ;  London  :  stevedores  ;  Devonport ; 
Siege  Brigade  ;   Dover  :   Naval  Brigade. 

On  the  first  day  (August  9th)  six  transports,  with  a 
total  of  5,361  tons  gross,  left.  The  numbers  varied  during 
the  period,  the  maximum  number  being  reached  on 
August  14th  (forty-four  vessels,  gross  tonnage  154,361), 
and  the  maximum  tonnage  on  August  16th  (thirty-nine 
vessels,  gross  tonnage  171,188).  On  the  last  day  of  the 
period,  September  20th,  six  transports,  of  a  total  gross 
tonnage  of  43,409,  left.  The  movements  were  worked 
on  the  ferry  system,  the  same  vessels  doing  from  a  single 
voyage  up  to  nine  voyages  during  the  period  ;  the  whole 
movement  was  completed  in  570  trips,  and  the  ship-tonnage 
clearing  from  the  ports  totalled  2,241,389  tons  gross. 
The  daily  average  of  sailings  was  thirteen  vessels,  of  52,125 
gross  tonnage. 

As  typical  of  the  zeal  with  which  the  personnel  of  the 
Merchant  Service  worked  to  keep  the  programme  up  to 
time,  and  so  contribute  to  the  success  of  our  army  in  the 

84  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST  TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

field,  one  incident  may  be  mentioned.  When  sudden 
orders  were  received  to  evacuate  Le  Havre,  two  Leyland 
liners  were  at  Southampton  at  No.  47  berth,  coaling. 
In  the  middle  of  the  night  orders  were  given  to  stop  coaling 
and  to  sail  at  once  to  Le  Havre.  The  coaling  was  stopped, 
but  a  difficulty  occurred  in  closing  the  coaling  ports,  which 
had  to  be  secured  by  bolts  from  the  outside.  The  ships' 
officers  and  engineers  went  over  the  side  on  stages  to 
effect  this,  and,  as  the  ships  steamed  away  into  the  dark- 
ness, these  men  could  be  seen  hanging  on  the  ships'  sides, 
only  a  few  feet  from  the  water,  putting  in  a  few  bolts  to 
ensure  the  safety  of  their  ships  ;  by  their  action  much 
time  was  saved. 

This  leads  us  to  the  rapid  evacuation  of  Le  Havre,  upon 
which  the  speedy  recuperation  of  our  army  after  the  retreat 
from  Mons  so  largely  depended.  The  need  to  make  pro- 
vision for  the  ordered  movements  hitherto  described  had, 
as  we  have  noticed,  been  foreseen.  Owing  to  the  adverse 
military  situation,  first  Boulogne  had  to  be  abandoned 
as  a  port  of  disembarkation,  then  Le  Havre,  the  main  base  of 
the  British  Army.  The  order  for  the  evacuation  of  the 
latter  port  was  received  on  August  30th.  On  that  day 
about  60,000  tons  of  military  stores  were  lying  on  the 
wharves.  This  immense  amount  of  stores,  21,000  troops, 
and  7,000  horses  were  conveyed  by  sea  from  Le  Havre  to 
the  River  Loire  by  the  Mercantile  Marine,  and  as  a  result 
the  British  Army,  reinforced  and  re-equipped,  was  able 
to  cross  the  Marne  on  September  9th,  and  continue  its 
advance  subsequently.  By  the  16th  the  transfer  had 
been  completed. 

It  is  not  easy  to  find  any  historic  precedent  which 
applies  to  this  successful  effort.  The  official  history  of 
the  Egyptian  War  of  1882  mentions  the  transfer  of  a 
base  of  a  much  smaller  British  army  from  Alexandria 
to  Ismailia.  The  comparison  is  hardly  a  fair  one,  because 
Alexandria  was  not  evacuated,  but  retained  as  the  main 
base  of  the  army,  Ismailia  being  used  as  the  forward  base. 
Moreover,  the  scale  of  army  equipment  was  not  so  lavish 
in  those  days,  and  the  army  itself  had  not  lost  heavily  in 
guns  and  stores  in  a  rapid  retreat.  The  official  history 
tells  us  that,  although  the  plans  for  the  change  of  base 
were  completed  by  August  16th,  1882,  and  the  necessary 
orders  issued,  matters  had  not  progressed  sufficiently  for 

CH.  IV]   AN    INCroENT   IN   THE    "  INVENTOR  "  85 

operations  from  Ismailia  to  commence  until  September 
9th,  twenty-four  days,  compared  with  eighteen  days  when 
the  emergency  occurred  at  the  beginning  of  the  Great  War, 
a  result  of  which  a  large  share  of  the  credit  falls  upon  the 
efforts  of  the  Merchant  Service  to  cope  with  the  emergency. 
It  is  claimed  that  over  7,500  tons  of  stores  were  cleared 
daily  from  Le  Havre,  in  addition  to  10,000  tons  taken  from 
Rouen  in  two  days  ;  2,000  Belgian  troops,  with  guns  and 
2,000  horses,  were  also  cleared  from  Rouen.  An  idea  of 
the  comparative  magnitude  of  the  effort  can  be  gleaned 
from  the  figures  for  Richborough,  a  model  port  of  em- 
barkation, after  twenty-eight  months  of  work  and  about 
£1,750,000  in  money  had  been  expended  upon  facilities 
there  for  loading  war-like  stores.  A  report  of  Lieutenant- 
General  Sir  H.  Lawson,  dated  October  24th,  1918,  stated 
that  the  average  daily  shipment  of  stores  at  Richborough 
amounted  to  about  3,000  tons ;  the  maximum  had  been 
6,000  tons. 

The  navigational  difficulties,  which  w^ere  very  serious, 
were  on  the  whole  successfully  surmounted.  The  ships 
were  not  in  all  cases  suitable  for  the  ports  of  the  Loire, 
which  were  not  as  capable  as  Le  Havre  of  accommodating 
vessels  of  large  displacements.  One  vessel,  the  Inventor, 
described  as  the  most  important  storeship  of  all,  was  the 
largest  that  had  ever  reached  Nantes.  Such  heavy  ships 
could  only  come  up  on  the  top  of  the  tide,  and  they  had 
to  be  berthed  against  an  island  where  the  w^ater  was 
deepest ;  even  there  they  settled  and  heeled  over  at  low 
tide.  The  carrying  capacity  of  the  Inventor  was  10,800 
tons,  and  her  holds  were  40  feet  deep.  She  was  berthed 
at  Nantes  late  on  September  7th  and,  owing  to  the  poor 
local  facilities  which  existed,  it  took  over  ten  days  to 
clear  her  holds,  in  spite  of  the  utmost  exertions.  Her 
case  is  referred  to  in  some  detail  because  of  an  incident 
during  her  unloading.  The  incident  furnishes  an  illus- 
tration of  the  great  complication  of  the  question  of  sea 
transport  of  military  stores,  and  its  influence  upon  the 
fighting  efficiency  of  armies. 

A  small  consignment,  of  about  a  quarter  of  a  ton,  on 
board  this  vessel,  contained  the  boxes  and  belts  of 
machine-guns  urgently  required  by  the  fighting  troops  in 
replacement  of  losses.  This  consignment  was  buried  under 
about  10,000  tons  of  other  stores  of  all  kinds.     Whether 

86  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF    FIRST   TROOPS     [ch.  iv 

this  was  due  to  an  order  given  to  load  the  most  important 
stores  first  at  Le  Havre  to  avoid  capture,  or  to  the  original 
stowage  of  the  hold  at  Southampton,  is  a  matter  on  which 
no  light  can  be  shed.  As  soon  as  the  change  of  base  from 
Le  Havre  was  ordered,  the  machine-guns  to  replace  losses 
in  the  Mons  retreat  were  sent  by  rail  as  urgent  stores  to 
the  new  advanced  base,  but  they  were  useless  without  the 
belts  and  boxes.  These  were  not  found,  near  the  bottom 
of  the  Inventor'' s  cargo,  until  September  17th,  and  the  urgent 
demands  by  the  Army  for  machine-guns  were  consequently 
not  satisfied  until  after  long  delay.  At  that  period  no 
vouchers  accompanied  ordnance  stores  to  France,  and 
there  were  no  supercargoes  in  charge  of  them.  The  in- 
cident in  no  way  reflects  upon  the  Merchant  Service,  and 
is  quoted  in  order  to  place  on  record  for  future  guidance 
that  the  issue  of  an  action  may  depend  upon  the  receipt 
in  the  right  sequence  at  the  front  of  a  quarter  of  a  ton  of 
technical  stores  out  of  the  hold  of  a  storeship  containing 
nearly  11,000  tons,  and  difficulties  multiply  when  all 
packages  are  not  clearly  marked  with  the  nature  of  their 
contents.  At  a  later  date  "  convoymen  "  accompanied 
cargoes,  and  vouchers  came  through  with  the  military 

This  account  of  the  work  done  by  the  Mercantile  Marine 
in  connection  with  the  transport  of  the  original  Expedi- 
tionary Force  to  France  would  not  be  complete  without 
a  reference  to  the  sudden  strain  caused  unexpectedly  by 
the  decision  to  attempt  the  relief  of  Antwerp.  The  move- 
ment of  the  Royal  Marine  Brigade  to  and  from  Ostend 
in  August  1914  was  carried  out  by  war-vessels,  so  is  out- 
side the  scope  of  this  chapter.  We  need  not  pause  to 
deal  in  detail  with  the  transport  of  the  Royal  Naval 
Brigade  to  Dunkirk  in  September  1914,  of  the  Royal 
Naval  Artillery  to  the  same  destination  in  October,  and 
of  the  7th  Division  and  Naval  Division  to  Belgium,  but 
the  complication  of  the  service  subsequently  undertaken 
cannot  be  over-emphasised.  The  7th  Division  was  landed 
at  Ostend  and  Zeebrugge.  Transports  arrived  at  Ostend 
on  October  7th  and  8th,  and  the  landing  of  troops  and 
stores  was  at  once  proceeded  with.  On  Saturday,  October 
10th,  when  most  of  the  stores  had  been  landed,  orders 
were  given  to  evacuate  Ostend  in  forty-eight  hours'  time, 
to  re-embark  all  stores,  and  to  make  every  effort  to  get 

CH.  IV]  A   FOUR  DAYS'   RECORD  87 

the  ships  away  to  prevent  their  falHng  into  the  hands  of 
the  enemy.  About  twenty-four  transports  were  in  the 
port,  many  of  them  in  the  tidal  basin,  which  only  about 
six  ships  could  leave  on  one  tide. 

Then    the    Naval    Division,    the    Marine    Brigade,   the 
refugees,     and    Belgian    troops   began   to    pour    in,    and 
owed    a    deep    debt    of    gratitude    to    the    masters    and 
crews    of   the    transports    who    gave    them    shelter,    hot 
cocoa,    and    sorely    needed    food.     Refugees    and    troops 
blocked  all  approaches.     Only  comparatively  few  steve- 
dores   could  be  obtained,  twenty-eight  on  one   day  and 
seven  on  another.     Practically  the  whole  of  the  loading 
of  British  army  stores  was  done  by  the  officers  and  crews 
of  the  transports,  who  put  in  extraordinarily  long  hours  of 
work,  and  by  British  soldiers  ;   the  Belgian  cranemen  and 
men  on  the  lock-gates  also  worked  continuously  without 
reliefs.     Amongst  the  loads  were  heavy  guns,  a  9 •2-inch 
weighing  thirty-eight  tons,  two  6-inch,  and   six   4-7-inch, 
besides  two  steam  tractors  and  a  good  deal  of  ammunition. 
There  were  no  suitable  slings,  but  the  transport  Artist  had 
a  spare  new  wire  hawser  of  which  the  master  (Mr.  Mills) 
and  his  chief  officer  made  use  and  personally  slung  the 
steam  tractors,   thus   saving  these  valuable  stores  from 
capture,  a  most  noteworthy  performance. 

Between  October  10th  and  13th,  6,000  Naval  Division, 
1,000  Belgian  wounded,  and  one  shipload  of  horses, 
carriages,  'and  other  things  belonging  to  the  King  of  the 
Belgians,  were  transported  from  Ostend  to  England  ;  440 
British  troops  and  two  shiploads  of  Belgian  stores  were 
moved  from  Ostend  to  Boulogne;  1,500  Belgian  troops 
from  Ostend  to  Cherbourg ;  2,000  Belgian  refugees  from 
Zeebrugge  to  Calais  and  Cherbourg,  1,200  Royal  Naval 
forces  and  6,000  Belgian  wounded  from  Dunkirk  to 
England,  11,000  Belgian  troops  from  Dunkirk  to  Cher- 
bourg. Between  October  17th  and  18th  17,900  Belgian 
troops  were  transported  from  Dunkirk  to  Calais,  and  3,000 
from  Boulogne  to  Dunkirk.  In  addition,  about  1,000 
Russian  refugees  from  Belgium  and  England  were  carried 
to  Archangel,  and  a  number  of  emergency  coast  moves 
were  carried  out.  Thirty  thousand  French  troops  were 
also  moved  from  Le  Havre  to  La  Pallice,  and  10,000  from 
Calais  to  Cherbourg,  in  British  ships. 

The  scene  at  Ostend,  at  the  time  when  the  troop  move- 

88  SEA   TRANSPORT  OF  FIRST  TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

merits   were    taking    place,    may   be    gathered   from    the 
following  account : 

"  On  October  14th  it  was  announced  that  the  vessels 
sent  to  Ostend  were  evacuating  refugees  at  the  rate  of 
5,000  a  day  ;  a  previous  report  had  stated  that  the  roads 
leading  to  the  port  were  black  with  refugees  flocking 
towards  it.  The  number  of  these  unfortunate  people 
awaiting  embarkation  on  October  13th  was  20,000,  and  a 
destroyer  escort  was  requisitioned  to  protect  the  crowded 
transports.  The  Belgian  packet-boat  helped  materially 
in  the  work  of  transference  across  the  Channel,  assisted 
by  the  English  passenger  ships  Invicta,  Queen,  and  Vic- 

Zeebrugge  port  was  closed  down  on  October  10th,  and 
Ostend  on  the  14th.  Speed  had  to  take  precedence  of 
organisation,  as  may  be  gathered  from  a  report  from  the 
Naval  Transport  Officer  at  Dover  on  October  15th,  that 
"  half  the  refugees  that  had  arrived  there  were  wounded 
soldiers,  etc.,  all  mixed  up  hopelessly."  There  was  un- 
avoidable .  overcrowding,  and  the  varied  personnel  was 
taken  to  Dover  faster  than  it  could  be  handled  there  ; 
but  the  matter  was  urgent,  and  the  way  in  which  the 
British  Merchant  Service  rose  to  the  occasion  and  dealt 
with  the  difficult  situation  without  disaster  from  marine 
risks  or  overcrowding  earned  the  highest  praise  of  the 
naval  and  military  authorities. 

At  first  Belgian  pilots  were  employed  to  pilot  the  vessels 
as  far  as  Dunkirk,  but  owing  to  the  congestion  they  could 
not  get  back  to  Ostend.  The  navigation  of  these  waters 
is  always  difficult,  and  the  prevailing  foggy  weather 
increased  the  difficulties  and  risk.  Luckily  some  of  the 
transports  had  Trinity  House  pilots  on  board.  Any 
master  who  did  not  elect  to  sail  without  a  pilot  was  given 
one  of  these,  and  his  ship  led  a  string  of  three  or  four 
transports  until  open  waters  were  reached.  The  whole 
operation  was  conducted  without  mishap,  and  only  one 
vessel,  the  Coath,  an  ammunition  ship,  was  delayed  near 
Malo-les-Bains,  where  she  was  ordered  to  anchor  by  a 
French  patrol-boat  and  apparently  forgotten.  She 
reached  Dunkirk  two  days  later. 

CH.  IV]  A   GREAT   STRAIN  89 

(b)  The  Empire  Military  Mobilisation  ^ 

Having  dealt  briefly  with  the  sea  transport  of  the 
British  Expeditionary  Force  to  France,  for  which  pre- 
parations had  been  made  in  pre-war  days,  and  with  the 
variation  in  the  plans  which  occurred,  we  can  now  pass  to 
the  unexpected  and  unprepared  movements  of  troops  which 
threw  such  a  heavy  strain  upon  the  Merchant  Service  in  the 
early  days  of  the  war.  Owing  to  the  doubt  which  prevailed 
as  to  whether  troops  from  the  self-governing  Dominions  and 
India  would  participate  with  the  British  Army  in  a  great 
war,  no  detailed  preparations  had  been  made  for  their 
sea  transport,  and  there  had  been  no  study  of  the  influence 
of  the  withdrawal  of  British  merchant  shipping  for  this 
purpose  upon  the  economic  position  in  Great  Britain. 
The  point  is  mentioned  to  emphasise  the  serious  nature  of 
the  strain  brought  to  bear  upon  the  Merchant  Service  in 
meeting  the  sudden  demand  for  tonnage  for  troop  trans- 
port, while  at  the  same  time  making  every  effort  to  main- 
tain the  supply  to  the  British  Isles  of  the  food  and  raw 
material  needed  by  the  population.  The  transports  for 
the  short  cross-Channel  movement  were  worked,  as  we  have 
seen,  on  the  ferry  system,  and  one  vessel  did  as  many  as 
nine  voyages  in  about  three  weeks.  This  conveys  some 
measure  of  the  difference  in  the  number  of  vessels  required 
for  long  voyages  occupying  several  weeks,  or  even  months. 

Lord  Kitchener  determined  to  concentrate  all  the  highly 
trained  forces  of  the  Empire  in  France,  replacing  them  by 
less  well  trained  units.  It  was  a  bold  stroke  of  policy, 
and  its  success  depended  on  the  efficiency  of  the  transport 
arrangements  and  the  devotion  of  officers  and  men  of  the 
Merchant  Service.  When  the  great  military  mobilisation 
began  to  take  effect,  the  chief  movements  were,  in  sequence 
of  the  orders  received  for  their  execution  :  (1)  August  19th : 
the  removal  of  part  of  the  garrisons  of  Egypt,  Malta,  and 
Gibraltar  to  the  United  Kingdom ;  (2)  August  25th  :  the 
movement  of  the  New  Zealand  Expeditionary  Force ; 
(3)  August  29th :  the  transfer  of  Territorial  troops  to  Egypt, 
Malta,  and  Gibraltar ;  (4)  SejJtember  4th :  the  movement 
of  the  first  contingent  of  the  Australian  Expeditionary 
Force  .*  (5)  September  9th  :  the  movement  of  the  First 
Canadian  Expeditionary  Force  ;    (6)  September  13th :    the 

^  Direct  movements  to  enemy  territory  are  not  included  in  this  section. 

90  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST   TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

dispatch  of  transports  from  Egypt  to  India,  and  con- 
veyance of  Egyptian  garrison  to  England  ;  (7)  September 
23rd  :  the  transfer  of  Wessex  Territorial  Division  to  India  ; 

(8)  October  10th :  the  movement  of  British  troops  to  India  ; 

(9)  October  14th:  the  transfer  of  Home  Counties  Territorial 
13ivision  to  India  ;  (10)  November  Srd :  the  movement  of 
the  second  contingents,  Australia  and  New  Zealand 
Expeditionary  Forces  ;  (11)  November  11th:  the  transfer 
of  Wessex  (Reserve)  Territorial  Division  to  India, 

We  will  take  these  movements  in  succession  in  order  to 
reflect  the  character  and  extent  of  the  burden  which  was 
thrown  on  the  Mercantile  Marine,  for  they  involved  the 
use  of  a  great  volume  of  shipping. 

(1)  Removal  to  the  United  Kingdom  of  Trooj^s  from.  Egypt, 
Malta,  and  Gibraltar.— The  grand  total  of  these  movements 
amounted  to  7,355  officers  and  men,  711  horses,  and  278 
mules.  The  troops  moved  from  Egypt  included  1  cavalry 
regiment,  3  battalions  of  infantry,  1  battery  of  R.H.A., 
1  Field  Company  R.E.,  and  details  of  the  Army  Service 
Corps,  Veterinary  Department,  and  Ordnance  Corps  ; 
from  Malta  3  battalions  of  infantry,  and  details  ;  from 
Gibraltar  1  battalion  of  infantry,  and  details.  There 
were  also  large  numbers  of  women  and  children  at  all 
those  Mediterranean  garrisons.  The  movement  was  fore- 
shadowed on  August  19th.  It  was  carried  out  between 
September  13th  and  October  16th  by  nine  transports, 
with  a  total  gross  tonnage  of  about  80,000.  On  August 
28th  further  information  was  received  through  the  General 
Officer  commanding  in  Egypt  that  the  whole  Egyptian 
garrison  would  eventually  be  removed  excepting  a  few 
minor  details,  its  place  being  taken  by  a  Territorial  divi- 
sion. Indian  troops  would  require  transport  from  Egypt 
to  Marseilles. 

(2)  Movement  of  the  New  Zealand  Expeditionary  Force. — 
On  August  25th  notice  was  received  of  the  approaching 
movement  of  the  original  New  Zealand  Expeditionary 
Force,  On  August  31st  the  New  Zealand  Minister  of 
Defence  announced  that  the  force  was  ready  to  embark, 
and  on  September  12th  that  the  reinforcements  for  this 
main  force  would  be  ready  to  follow  about  six  weeks  after 
its  departure.  The  first  convoy,  containing  nine  transports 
(72,800  tons  gross),  left  Wellington  on  October  16th,  1914, 
and  arrived  in  Egypt  on  December  1st.     On  November 


Ilth  provisional  arrangements  for  the  dispatch  of  the 
reinforcements  were  forwarded  to  New  Zealand.  On 
December  12th  the  Admiralty  gave  permission  for  the 
three  transports  carrying  them  to  steam  without  escort 
as  far  as  Aden,  although  enemy  cruisers  were  known  to 
be  at  large.  They  left  on  December  14th  and  arrived  in 
Egypt  on  January  31st,  1915.  The  strength  of  the  New 
Zealand  Expeditionary  Force  was  7,670  officers  and  men 
with  3,467  animals,  and  the  reinforcements  numbered 
1,971  officers  and  men  wuth  959  animals,  and  were  carried 
in  three  transports,  of  about  20,350  tons  gross.  In  addition 
to  these  troops,  200  Maoris,  offered  by  New  Zealand  and 
accepted  by  the  Army  Council,  were  transported  to  Egypt, 
and  147  British  Army  Reservists  were  conveyed  without 
escort  round  the  Horn,  arriving  in  England  on  December 

(3)  Transfer  of  Territorial  Troops  from  England  to  Gibral- 
tar, Malta,  and  Egypt. — On  August  29th  a  demand  was 
received  from  the  War  Office  for  the  dispatch  of  a  Terri- 
torial division  and  2  regiments  of  Yeomanry  to  Egypt, 
an  infantry  brigade  to  Malta,  and  2  battalions  to  Gibraltar, 
the  estimated  total  numbers  amounting  to  490  officers, 
14,372  other  ranks,  and  363  horses.  Thirteen  merchant 
vessels  were  selected  to  carry  the  troops,  and  seven  were 
requisitioned  for  the  horses,  etc.  It  was  understood  that 
the  existing  garrison  of  Egypt  would  be  brought  to  Eng- 
land in  these  transports,  Avhen  it  was  relieved.  By  Sep- 
tember 4th  nineteen  vessels  (155,500  tons  gross)  had  been 
appropriated.  The  first  of  these  left  Southampton  on 
that  day,  and  the  last  arrived  at  Alexandria  on  Sep- 
tember 25th.  One  vessel,  the  Grantully  Castle,  proceeded 
through  the  Canal  to  Port  Sudan,  carrying  about  1,900 

(4)  Movement  of  the  First  Contingent  of  the  Australian 
Expeditionary  Force. — On  September  4th,  1914,  the 
Australian  Government  sanctioned  the  requisition  of 
detained  enemy  ships  for  use  as  transports,  and  on  Sep- 
tember 5th  announced  that  all  the  units  of  the  first  Aus- 
tralian contingent  would  be  ready  to  embark  within  six 
weeks,  at  the  same  time  representing  to  the  Board  of 
Trade  that  it  was  important,  so  far  as  practicable,  that 
the  transports  should  also  carry  cargo  on  the  voyage  to 
England.     On  September  8th  the  Admiralty  announced 

92  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST   TROOPS     [ch.  iv 

that  by  October  7th  an  escort  for  the  convoy  would  be 
ready  at  Fremantle,  and  that  the  New  Zealand  reinforce- 
ments would  join  the  convoy.  The  Australian  Navy 
Office  reported  on  September  9th  that  twenty-seven  trans- 
ports would  assemble  at  St.  George's  Sound  by  October 
5th.  The  Miltiades,  conveying  British  Army  reservists, 
left  Australia  on  October  23rd.  On  November  1st  thirty- 
six  transports  left  for  Colombo.  It  had  been  decided  on 
October  26th  that  the  Australian  and  New  Zealand  convoy 
should  come  to  England  by  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  route, 
but  on  November  21st  the  decision  was  reached  to  land  the 
contingents  in  Egypt  to  complete  their  training  and  for 
defence  of  the  country,  then  threatened  by  an  invasion 
by  Turkish  troops,  Turkey  having  by  this  time  joined  the 
Central  Powers.  The  British  Army  reservists  were  to  be 
sent  on  to  England.  This  change  in  the  arrangements 
threw  an  extra  strain  upon  the  Merchant  Service,  and 
much  correspondence  ensued  about  the  destination  of  the 
various  vessels  unexpectedly  liberated  by  the  new  scheme 
of  disembarkation.  The  convoys  arrived  in  Egypt  on 
December  1st,  1914,  without  mishap  or  delay.  The  only 
adverse  incident  which  occurred  was  that  one  transport, 
the  Anglo-Egyptian,  touched  the  breakwater  at  Colombo, 
but  the  damage  was  not  sufficient  to  delay  the  vessel. 
Throughout  the  course  of  these  unprepared  troop  move- 
ments, it  is  noticeable  that,  although  so  many  merchant 
ships,  liners  and  cargo-vessels  were  diverted  from  their 
usual  routes,  they  were  handled  safely  by  good  seaman- 
ship in  harbours  with  which  the  captains  and  crews  were 
not  familiar.  Twenty-eight  vessels  for  troops  (gross  ton- 
nage 244,500)  and  fifteen  for  details,  stores,  etc.,  were 
employed  to  transfer  the  Australian  contingent  to  Egypt. 
The  total  military  personnel  carried  numbered  21,429 
officers  and  men,  with  8,000  animals. 

(5)  Movement  of  the  First  Canadian  Expeditionary  Force 
across  the  Atlantic. — This  movement  of  large  numbers  of 
valuable  transports  loaded  with  troops  into  the  war  area 
infested  with  submarines  and  mines,  while  sea  command 
was  in  dispute,  threw  a  great  strain  upon  the  seamanship 
and  resourcefulness  of  the  Merchant  Service.  The  first 
papers  on  the  subject  in  the  transport  department  are 
dated  September  9th,  1914.  The  arrangements  for  the 
organisation  of  the  convoys  and  provision  for  their  safety 


by  the  Navy  are  beyond  the  scope  of  this  history.  Secrecy 
was  all-important.  Quebec  was  the  port  of  embarkation, 
and  subsequently  assembly  took  place  in  Gaspe  Bay. 
The  movements  of  18,000 -ton  vessels  of  17- knot  speed  had 
to  be  synchronised  with  those  of  3,000-ton  vessels  with  a 
speed  of  10  knots.  Southampton  was  first  selected  as 
the  port  of  disembarkation,  and  Liverpool  was  also  sug- 
gested. The  transport  of  the  First  Canadian  Division  was 
rendered  more  difficult  by  its  inflated  numbers,  which 
amounted  to  31,200  officers  and  men  and  7,300  horses. 
The  convoys  left  on  October  3rd.  During  the  voyage 
many  changes  were  made  in  the  proposed  ports  of  dis- 
embarkation, but  finally  Devonport  was  selected.  By 
October  15th  all  the  transports,  excepting  one,  the  Ma?i- 
hattan,  which  sailed  separately,  had  reached  Plymouth 
Sound,  and  they  had  been  unloaded  on  October  22nd. 
In  view  of  the  want  of  previous  practice  in  station- keeping 
between  merchant  ships  of  such  widely  divergent  speed 
and  size,  the  safe  transport  of  this  heterogeneous  convoy 
reflected  great  credit  upon  the  masters  and  watch-keeping 
officers  of  the  merchant  ships.  Thirty-one  vessels  (total 
gross  tonnage  321,000)  carried  the  Canadian  troops  ;  two 
more,  with  the  Newfoundland  contingent  and  a  British 
infantry  battalion  (2nd  Lincolnshire)  accompanied  the 
convoys  on  October  3rd,  and  four  cargo  vessels  left 
independently  between  October  7th  and  November  7th. 
There  were  only  a  few  minor  claims  for  damage  to  trans- 
ports, and  only  one  adverse  incident ;  some  rifles  were 
carried  on  to  Glasgow  by  one  of  the  transports  after 
the  disembarkation  at  Devonport. 

(6)  Dispatch  of  Transports  from  Egypt  to  India,  and 
Conveyance  of  Egyptian  Garrison  to  England. — On  September 
12th  the  Viceroy  of  India  made  representations  to  the 
War  Office  on  the  subject  of  requirements  in  transports, 
and  it  was  suggested  that  the  twenty  then  on  their  way 
to  Egypt  with  Territorial  troops  should  go  on  to  India  for 
use  of  the  military  authorities.  Between  September  26th 
and  28th  nine  transports  were  sent  on  to  India  from  Egypt, 
and  one  vessel  from  Marseilles.  Four  transports  (gross 
tonnage  38,240)  left  Alexandria  for  England  with  the 
original  Egyptian  garrison  (strength  78  officers,  3,074  other 
ranks,  including  220  natives  with  625  animals),  on  Septem- 
ber 30th,  and  one  transport  left  Port  Sudan,  carrying  a 

94  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF  FIRST   TROOPS     [ch.  iv 

British  battalion  (1st  Suffolk),  on  October  3rd,  arriving 
at  Southampton  on  October  11th. 

(7)  Transfer  of  Wessex  Territorial  Division  to  hidia. — 
On  September  23rd  a  demand  was  received  to  move  this 
division  to  India,  the  numbers  being  estimated  at  490 
officers,  14,372  other  ranks,  and  363  horses.  Four  trans- 
ports were  detained  at  Southampton  for  the  purpose. 
The  troops  embarked  on  October  9th  in  nine  transports, 
total  gross  tonnage  73,000.  Two  hundred  and  twenty- 
naval  ratings  were  sent  to  Malta  in  one  of  the  transports, 
the  Ingonia,  which  would  otherwise  have  proceeded  empty 
to  India.  The  convoy  arrived  at  Bombay  and  Karachi 
on  November  9th-llth. 

(8)  Movement  of  British  Troops  from  India. — This  move- 
ment was  initiated  on  October  10th,  1914.  The  first  group, 
consisting  of  5  battalions  of  infantry,  11  R.F.A.  batteries, 
3  R.G.A.  heavy  batteries,  details,  and  women  and  children 
(the  troops  totalling  227  officers  and  11,500  men),  left 
Bombay  on  October  16th  in  seven  transports  (total  gross 
tonnage  62,000)  and  arrived  safely  at  Plymouth  on 
November  16th  with  the  exception  of  the  Dunera,  which 
put  into  Southampton  the  same  day,  having  run  con- 
siderable risk  of  being  torpedoed  by  submarines  on  her 
way  up- Channel.  She  was  the  only  transport  in  the  convoy 
not  fitted  with  wireless  telegraphy.  This  need  was  supplied 
before  her  next  voyage. 

The  second  group,  of  9  battalions  of  infantry  and  2 
R.H.A.  and  2  R.F.A.  batteries,  3  companies  of  R.G.A,, 
women,  children,  and  horses  (the  troops  totalling  332 
officers  and  11,887  men),  left  Bombay  and  Karachi  on 
November  19th  and  20th  in  nine  transports  (total  gross 
tonnage  79,700)  and  arrived  at  Devonport  on  December 
22nd.  The  handling  of  these  loads  while  on  board  by  the 
Merchant  Service  engaged  in  the  transport  work  may  be 
judged  from  the  smooth  disembarkation  of  the  whole  in 
forty  hours,  which  elicited  from  the  admiral  of  the  port  the 
expression  "  admirably  carried  out." 

The  third  group  of  5  battalions,  accompanied  by  details 
and  by  very  large  numbers  of  women  and  children,  besides 
the  personnel  of  2  Indian  hospital  ships  and  an  Indian 
general  hospital  (the  troops  totalling  182  officers  and 
5,412  men),  left  Bombay  and  Karachi  on  December  9th 
and    10th    in    seven    transports    (total    gross    tonnage 


63,700)  and  arrived  at  Avonmouth  on  January  10th, 

The  fourth  group,  of  1  battahon,  with  women  and 
children  (the  troops  totalHng  52  officers  and  1,420  men), 
left  Bombay  in  one  transport  of  8,092  tons  gross  and 
arrived  at  Avonmouth  on  February  1st. 

The  fifth  group,  with  details  of  numerous  regiments  left 
behind,  women,  children,  and  ordnance  stores  (the  troops 
totalling  33  officers  and  651  men),  left  India  on  February 
23rd  in  four  transports,  of  34,000  tons  gross  ;  two  were 
detained  in  Egyptian  waters,  one  of  these,  the  Ionian, 
being  requisitioned  for  the  General  Officer  Commanding. 
The  two  sent  on,  the  Caledonia  and  Aragon,  after  detention 
at  Gibraltar  owing  to  the  danger  attending  upon  the  full 
moon  and  possibility  of  enemy  attack,  arrived  at  Avon- 
mouth on  March  12th.  There  was  an  outbreak  of  measles 
amongst  the  children  in  these  ships  to  add  to  the  worries 
of  mothers  and  officers.  Nearly  100  cases  occurred,  of 
which  75  were  in  the  Caledonia.  The  remaining  transport, 
the  Saturnia,  ultimately  came  on  to  Avonmouth  via 

(9)  Transfer  of  Home  Counties  Territorial  Division  to 
India. — The  first  intimation  of  this  move  was  contained 
in  a  letter  from  the  War  Office  dated  October  14th,  1914, 
in  which  the  hope  was  expressed  that  the  division  could 
be  moved  on  October  25th.  Three  days  later  the  number 
of  troops  was  given  as  457  officers  and  12,112  men,  of 
which  number  36  officers  and  800  men  would  be  dropped 
at  Aden.  There  was  serious  congestion  of  shipping  at  Ply- 
mouth at  the  time,  causing  delay  in  unloading  shipping,  so 
the  port  of  Southampton  was  chosen  and  October  29th  was 
the  date  selected  for  the  convoy  to  leave.  In  spite  of 
delays  due  to  one  transport,  the  Dilwara,  developing  a  fire 
in  her  bunkers,  and  to  another,  the  Corsica?!,  grounding 
in  Southampton  Water,  the  convoy  of  ten  transports 
(gross  tonnage  90,500)  left  Southampton  on  September 
29th  and  30th.  Owing  to  the  political  situation  in  Egypt, 
it  was  detained  there  to  enable  the  convoy  from  India,  due 
at  Suez  on  November  18th,  to  be  nearer  Egypt.  This  en- 
abled the  Dilwara  to  join  up,  and  the  whole  convoy  arrived 
at  Bombay  between  December  1st  and  3rd.  The  revised 
numbers  carried  were  444  officers  and  11,838  men. 

(10)  Movement  of  New  Zealand  Reinforcements,  and  the 

II— 8 

96  SEA   TRANSPORT   OF   FIRST   TROOPS     [ch.  iv 

Second  Australian  Contingent  and  Reinforcements. — On 
November  3rd,  1914,  transports  were  requisitioned.  On 
November  6th  the  date  of  departure  was  fixed  provisionally 
for  the  middle  of  December.  A  hospital  ship,  the  Kyarra, 
sailed  on  December  14th  and  the  convoy  left  Albany  on 
December  31st,  consisting  of  nineteen  transports,  of  which 
three  (gross  tonnage  20,350)  carried  the  New  Zealand 
reinforcements  (strength  1,971),  and  sixteen  (gross  tonnage 
149,700)  the  Australian  second  contingent  and  reinforce- 
ments (strength  9,453  officers  and  men  and  4,609  animals). 
The  convoy  arrived  at  Suez  on  January  30th,  1915,  at 
which  time  the  attack  by  the  Turks  upon  the  Suez  Canal 
was  developing.  One  of  the  transports,  the  Themistocles, 
came  on  to  England,  calling  at  Malta  to  bring  184  details 
to  England  and  at  Gibraltar  to  take  on  board  392  details. 

(11)  Transport  of  Wessex  Reserve  Territorial  Division  to 
India,  etc. — On  November  11th,  1914,  the  War  Office 
asked  for  transport  to  India  for  the  Welsh  Territorial 
Division,  but  the  Wessex  Reserve  Territorial  Division 
was  afterwards  substituted,  and  the  date  of  dispatch  fixed 
as  December  12th.  Five  transports  (total  gross  tonnage 
47,000)  were  employed.  The  numbers  of  troops  were 
338  officers  and  10,057  other  ranks.  The  vessels  arrived 
at  Bombay  and  Karachi  between  January  4th  and  8th, 
1915.  The  Scottish  Women's  Hospital,  destined  for 
Serbia,  was  dropped  at  Malta. 

This  movement  may  be  said  to  have  completed  the 
original  military  mobilisation  of  the  Empire. 

(c)  The  Dardanelles  Expedition 

The  transfer  of  the  British  Army  to  France  was,  as  we 
have  seen,  an  operation  for  which  preparations  had  pre- 
viously been  made.  The  extemporised  arrangements  in 
connection  with  the  relief  of  Antwerp  followed.  The 
character  of  the  work  thrown  on  the  Mercantile  Marine 
in  these  operations  can  be  gathered  from  the  brief  details 
which  have  been  given,  and  some  estimate  can  also  be 
formed  of  the  stupendous  effort  involved  in  carrying  out 
the  sea  movements  required  to  mobilise  and  to  distribute, 
in  the  first  instance,  the  military  forces  and  resources  of 
the  Empire.  Details  of  the  tonnage  of  transports  have 
been  added  as  a  guide  for  estimates  of  the  amount  of 


shipping  required  to  move  military  units  and  drafts 
respectively  for  long  or  short  voyages,  a  question  of  con- 
siderable importance  to  an  island  Power,  from  the  point 
of  view  both  of  defence  and  of  attack.  In  order  to  com- 
plete the  detailed  account  of  the  movement  of  the  "  first 
million,"  it  is  necessary  to  give  some  account  of  the  initial 
movements  entailed  by  the  decision  to  send  troops  from 
the  United  Kingdom  to  the  Mediterranean  with  an  ultimate 
destination  in  hostile  territory,  the  Gallipoli  Peninsula, 
together  with  some  preliminary  events  leading  up  to  that 

On  February  11th,  1915,  three  transports  were  requisi- 
tioned to  move  2,800  Royal  Marines  and  details  from 
Southampton  to  Mombasa,  starting  on  February  17th. 
Eight  hundred  men  were  subsequently  deducted  from  this 
number,  and  about  220  Artillery  and  Engineers  were 
added.  The  requisitioning  of  two  of  the  transports,  the 
Alnwick  Castle  and  Dunluce  Castle,  was  cancelled,  and 
another— the  Grantully  Castle — substituted.  A  further 
demand  for  one  ship  to  be  fitted  partly  as  a  hospital  ship 
led  to  the  requisitioning  of  the  Grantully  Castle  being 
cancelled  and  the  Somali  and  Alnwick  Castle  (again)  being 
taken  up,  the  SomaWs  hospital  fittings  to  be  erected  on 
the  voyage  out.  Some  horse-boats  and  guns  were  to  be 
taken.  As  an  example  of  the  uncertainties  with  which 
the  movement  of  troops  was  attended  owing  to  changes 
in  the  political  and  military  situations,  on  February  16th 
all  these  arrangements  were  cancelled,  and  it  was  decided 
to  send  the  Royal  Naval  Division  and  the  29th  Division 
to  the  Mediterranean.  On  February  20th  a  requisition 
was  received  for  the  transport  of  7  battalions  of  the 
Naval  Division,  and  about  8,000  officers  and  men,  to  leave 
Avonmouth  on  February  27th  for  Lemnos.  Thirteen 
transports  were  employed  in  this  convoy,  one  of  them 
carrying  mule  transport,  one  a  Naval  Air  Force  unit,  and 
four  of  them  stores.  Four  ships  were  ordered  to  leave  on 
February  27th,  and  four  on  the  28th. 

In  connection  with  this  rapid  embarkation  (which  led  to 
subsequent  delay  owing  to  the  packing  of  the  holds  of  the 
transports),  it  may  be  noted  that  it  was  not  realised  that  the 
troops  embarked  were  likely  to  take  part  at  once  in  an 
opposed  landing  on  a  hostile  coast.  The  complication  of 
the  needs  of  troops  in  action  or  who  were  likely  to  be  in 

98  SEA  TRANSPORT  OF  FIRST  TROOPS    [ch.  iv 

action,  as  affecting  the  packing  of  holds,  has  already  been 
touched  upon  when  dealing  with  the  transfer  of  base  of 
the  British  Army  in  France  from  Le  Havre  to  St.  Nazaire 
and  Nantes.  While  the  rapid  embarkation  of  the  troops 
and  stores  reflected  great  credit  upon  those  concerned, 
it  may  be  put  on  record  that  extra  time  spent  in 
packing  the  holds  of  transports,  under  expert  military 
supervision,  if  proceeding  to  a  destination  in  hostile  terri- 
tory, may  cause  delay  at  the  time,  but  such  delay  at  the 
outset  is  well  repaid  subsequently  by  the  saving  of  time 
and  losses  in  carrying  out  such  a  delicate  operation  as 
landing  troops  in  face  of  opposition. 

The  numbers  in  the  29th  Division  were  at  first  estimated 
at  717  officers,  21,971  other  ranks,  and  6,391  horses  ;  the 
numbers  actually  carried  were  705  officers,  20,533  men, 
and  6,522  animals.  Nineteen  transports  were  employed, 
and  five  store  transports,  one,  the  Inkonka,  carrying  an 
Air  Force  unit.  The  vessels  sailed,  separately,  for 
Alexandria  at  intervals  between  February  27th  and  March 
15th,  1915,  arriving  on  various  dates  from  March  14th 

The  2nd  Mounted  Division  was  directed  to  follow  as 
soon  as  possible  after  the  29th  Division.  The  approximate 
numbers  were  525  officers,  9,470  men,  and  9,585  horses. 
No  remount  ships  were  available.  Nineteen  transports 
were  appropriated,  and  the  vessels  sailed  in  groups 
between  April  8th  and  13th,  calling  at  Malta  for  orders. 
Three  transports  were  kept  for  subsequent  embarkations 
on  April  15th,  and  one  transport,  with  the  G.H.Q.  signal 
company,  was  ordered  direct  to  Lemnos.  The  transports 
began  to  arrive  at  Alexandria  on  April  20th. 

In  the  meantime  twelve  transports  containing  horse- 
boats,  fittings,  and  crews  for  them,  with  their  rations,  had 
been  dispatched  from  Portsmouth  singly  by  coastwise 
route  for  Alexandria,  where  they  were  urgently  needed, 
a  demand  for  the  transport  of  10,000  men  of  the  Australian 
and  New  Zealand  forces  from  that  port  on  February  27th 
having  been  received. 

By  midnight  on  March  21st/22nd,  1915,  the  numbers 
of  British  Dominion,  Colonial,  and  Indian  troops  which 
had  been  transported  by  sea  by  the  British  Mercantile 
Marine  amounted  to  about  1,039,300.  This  figure  repre- 
sents effectives.     137,169  sick  and  wounded  had  also  been 


carried.  Within  six  months  of  the  declaration  of  war, 
therefore,  well  over  a  million  armed  combatants  of  the 
British  Empire,  with  their  equipment  and  stores,  had 
been  transported  across  the  world's  oceans  and  seas,  an 
achievement  without  precedent  in  history.  Out  of  the 
first  million  there  were  no  casualties  amongst  the  troops, 
either  from  marine  risk  or  from  enemy  action.  When 
the  constant  transfer  of  shipping  from  familiar  to  un- 
familiar voyages  is  considered,  and  account  is  taken  of 
the  navigational  and  the  other  difficulties,  there  is  no 
need  to  emphasise  the  enterprise  and  organising  power  of 
British  shipowners,  or  the  seamanship,  resourcefulness, 
and  zeal  of  the  masters  and  crews.  One  and  all,  they 
served  the  nation  well  in  the  hour  when  it  was  confronted 
with  a  situation  the  gravity  of  which,  in  view  of  many 
unknown  factors,  it  had  been  impossible  fully  to  foresee. 
Apart  from  the  tentative  plans  for  the  transport  of  the 
Expeditionary  Force,  the  movements  by  sea  of  the  military 
forces  in  accordance  with  the  wishes  of  the  War  Office 
had  to  be  provided  for  at  a  few  days'  notice.  Arrangements 
had  to  be  improvised  as  each  emergency  arose,  and  every 
call  which  was  made  on  the  shipping  firms  or  the  crews  of 
the  ships  concerned  was  met  promptly  and  efficiently. 
No  contract,  written  or  implied,  existed  between  the  State 
and  the  Mercantile  Marine,  but  nevertheless  the  whole 
of  its  resources,  material  and  personnel,  were  instantly  and 
ungrudgingly  placed  at  the  service  of  the  nation.  The 
success  achieved  in  face  of  constantly  changing  conditions 
by  sea  and  by  land  was  in  no  small  measure  due  to  the 
Naval  Transport  Department,  which  requisitioned  and 
loaded  the  ships.  And,  as  has  been  indicated,  the  Navy, 
on  which  devolved  the  responsibility  of  protecting  the 
transports  while  on  passage  in  face  of  undeveloped  enemy 
forces,  fulfilled  its  mission.  The  pride  in  the  transporta- 
tion of  the  first  million  troops  without  the  loss  of  a  single 
life  is  shared  by  the  men  who  served  under  the  Red  and 
White  Ensigns. 



The  blockade  of  Germany,  which  was  instituted  im- 
mediately after  the  declaration  of  war,  differed  in  many 
important  respects  from  the  blockade  maintained  during 
the  long  struggle  with  J'rance  in  the  eighteenth  and  nine- 
teenth centuries,  with  the  result  that  from  1914  onwards 
merchant  ships  and  merchant  seamen  w^ere  required  to 
bear  no  mean  share  of  the  burden.  Students  are  familiar 
with  the  strain  which  was  imposed  upon  blockaders  in 
the  past  owing  to  the  uncertainties  of  wind  and  sea.  In 
the  sailing-ship  era,  although  the  blockade  was  maintained 
as  close  to  the  enemy's  shores  as  possible,  there  was  no 
guarantee  that  enemy  ships  would  not  escape  from  port,  and 
that  incoming  ships,  favoured  by  the  fortune  of  wind,  would 
not  succeed  in  eluding  the  vigilance  of  the  blockaders. 
On  three  occasions  the  French  fleet  at  Toulon  managed 
to  escape  in  spite  of  Nelson's  vigilance,  and  frigates  and 
privateers  frequently  broke  out  singly,  inflicting  heavy 
losses  on  British  merchant  vessels. 

During  the  period  which  intervened  between  the  close 
of  the  Napoleonic  Wars  and  the  opening  of  the  Great 
War  in  1914,  it  had  come  to  be  recognised  that  the  advent 
of  the  steam  engine,  the  increased  range  of  the  high- 
power  gun  mounted  on  shore,  and  the  evolution  of  the 
torpedo  in  destroyer  and  submarine  had  radically  affected 
the  whole  problem  of  maintaining  a  blockade.  Whereas 
the  sailing  man-of-war,  moreover,  was  a  self-contained 
unit  of  power,  with  water  and  provisions  sufficient  for 
the  needs  of  the  officers  and  men  for  a  period  ranging 
from  three  to  six  months,  the  modern  man-of-war  had 
become  dependent  on  auxiliaries  for  food  and  stores,  and 
radius  of  action  was  restricted  by  limited  capacity  for 
carrying  fuel.  In  these  circumstances  the  blockade  of 
Germany  was  maintained  at  long  range  ;  the  ships  of  the 




CH.  V]  BLOCKj^DE  difficulties  101 

Grand  Fleet  were  based  on  Scapa  Flow,  Cromarty,  and  the 
Firth  of  Forth,  and  from  time  to  time  they  left  harbour 
to  carry  out  what  were  known  as  "  sweeps  "  in  the  North 

Before  hostilities  opened,  the  naval  authorities  had 
realised  that  forces  would  be  necessary  to  keep  the  seas 
in  all  weathers,  acting  as  the  antennae  of  the  Grand 
Fleet  and  maintaining  a  constant  patrol  in  order  to  prevent 
contraband  being  conveyed  into  Germany.  At  first  this 
arduous  duty  was  confided  to  groups  of  the  older  cruisers 
of  the  Navy,  but  eventually,  owing  to  the  unseaworthi- 
ness of  these  vessels  and  their  restricted  fuel  capacity  and 
to  their  being  required  for  other  services,  it  devolved 
upon  armed  merchant  ships,  which,  though  commanded 
by  naval  officers,  were  manned  by  seamen  of  the  Mercan- 
tile Marine.  Long  before  the  war  came  to  its  close  the 
active  blockade  of  Germany  was  being  maintained  by 
the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  consisting  of  twenty-five 
large  merchant  ships,  and  it  may  always  be  a  source  of 
pride  to  shipowners,  and  in  particular  to  the  officers  and 
men  of  the  Mercantile  Marine,  that  merchant  ships  bore 
the  responsibility  which  in  former  days  had  been  dis- 
charged by  frigates  of  the  Navy,  and  that  the  character 
of  the  ships,  in  association  with  the  high  standard  of 
seamanship  of  the  crews,  enabled  a  more  successful 
blockade  to  be  sustained  in  conditions  of  great  difficulty 
than  had  been  known  in  any  previous  war.  The  significance 
of  that  success  can  be  appreciated  only  in  knowledge  of 
the  conditions  in  which  it  was  achieved. 

There  were  two  channels  by  which  goods  might  enter 
Germany  either  direct  or  by  way  of  the  northern  countries 
of  Europe  :  one  was  through  the  Straits  of  Dover  and 
the  other  round  the  north  of  Scotland.  The  laying  of  a 
large  mine-field  in  the  extreme  southern  portion  of  the 
North  Sea  compelled  all  vessels  to  go  through  the  Downs, 
and  thus  it  was  possible  to  intercept  and  examine  every 
ship  which  passed  up  and  down  the  English  Channel. 
The  problem  presented  by  the  northern  route  was  far 
more  difficult  of  solution.  The  distance  from  the  north 
of  Scotland  to  Iceland  is  450  miles,  and  from  Iceland  to 
Greenland  another  160  miles.  Once  vessels  had  passed 
this  line  and  made  the  coast  of  Norway  inward  bound, 
they  could  proceed  to  their  destinations  inside  territorial 

102         MERCHANT   SEAMEN   AND    BLOCIvADE     [ch.  v 

waters  where  they  could  not  be  stopped  and  examined. 
Ships  which  were  outward  bound  could  also  take  advantage 
of  the  territorial  waters  of  Norway,  and  then,  favoured  by 
darkness,  mist,  or  fog,  could  make  a  dash  for  the  Atlantic 
with  some  confidence  of  escaping  observation  unless  the 
patrols  were  numerous  and  vigilant.  The  problem  set 
to  the  Northern  Patrol,  consisting  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron,  became,  therefore,  one  of  watching  an  area  of 
over  200,000  square  miles,  the  size  of  which  was  somewhat 
reduced  during  the  winter  months  by  ice.  The  patrol 
was  maintained  under  many  difficulties,  since  the  vessels 
had  necessarily  to  work  at  great  distances  from  their  bases 
and,  owing  to  their  limited  number,  were  a  long  way  out 
of  sight  of  each  other.  During  the  winter,  gales  are 
almost  incessant  in  this  northern  latitude,  and  when  the 
wind  falls  fogs  of  varying  density  often  shroud  the  sea. 
Finally,  long  before  the  submarine  campaign  on  merchant 
shipping  was  embarked  upon  by  the  enemy  systematically, 
submersible  craft  were  engaged  in  searching  for  and 
attacking  the  ships  which  were  maintaining  the  blockade. 
In  these  circumstances  of  danger  from  the  forces  of  nature 
as  well  as  from  the  stratagems  of  the  enemy,  a  relentless 
economic  constriction  was  imposed  on  Germany.  The 
service  involved  officers  and  men  in  hardships  with  which 
British  seamen  had  for  many  years  been  unfamiliar,  many 
of  the  blockading  vessels  remaining  at  sea  in  spite  of  gales, 
fogs,  and  submarines  for  as  long  as  a  month  or  more  at  a 

On  the  Saturday  before  the  outbreak  of  war  Rear- 
Admiral  Dudley  de  Chair  received  orders  from  the 
Admiralty  to  mobilise  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  hoisting 
his  flag  on  board  the  Crescent  at  Portsmouth.  The 
other  cruisers  chosen  to  form  the  Squadron  consisted  of 
the  sister  ships  Edgar  and  Grafton,  which  were  also  at 
Portsmouth,  the  Endymion,  Theseus,  and  Gibraltar, 
which  were  at  Devonport,  and  the  Royal  Arthur,  which 
was  at  Chatham  ;  the  Hawke,  which  was  also  to  join  the 
Squadron,  was  refitting  at  Queenstown.  The  gunboat 
Dryad  was  included  in  the  command.  The  eight  cruisers 
were  old  ships  ;  they  had  been  laid  down  under  the  Naval 
Defence  Act  of  1889,  All  of  them,  except  the  Gibraltar, 
which  was  of  7,700  tons,  displaced  7,350  tons.  When 
new,   they  had  attained  speeds  somewhat  exceeding  19 

CH.  v]       TWO   GERMAN   VESSELS  CAPTURED  103 

knots  ;  they  had  a  normal  coal  capacity  of  850  tons,  with 
a  full  load  of  1,200  tons.  The  vessels,  owing  to  their  age, 
had  been  relegated  to  the  Third  Fleet  of  the  Home  Fleets 
before  the  opening  of  the  war  and  were  provided  with 
nucleus  crews  on  the  lowest  category,  provision  being 
made  to  complete  the  complement  mainly  from  the  Royal 
Naval  Reserve.  The  Rear-Admiral  commanding,  on 
reaching  Portsmouth,  had  without  delay  to  mobilise  this 
homogeneous  and  obsolete  group  of  cruisers  and  take  his 
force  to  sea  in  face  of  the  enemy  with  officers  and  men 
drawn  in  the  main  from  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve,  and 
therefore  consisting  mainly  of  merchant  seamen. 

As  a  result  of  extraordinary  efforts  the  Crescent, 
Grafton,  and  Edgar  were  ready  by  August  3rd,  and 
Admiral  de  Chair  proceeded  at  once,  hoping  to  be  joined 
off  Plymouth  by  the  Endymion,  Theseus,  and  Gibraltar. 
In  this  he  M'as  disappointed,  as  these  three  ships  were 
delayed,  but,  signalling  to  them  to  follow  with  all  dispatch, 
he  pressed  on,  passing  up  the  West  Coast  of  England  on 
August  4th  to  Scapa  Flow. 

At  midnight  orders  were  received  to  commence  hos- 
tilities against  Germany,  and  early  on  the  following 
morning,  when  off  the  Mull  of  Cantire,  the  first  blow  against 
the  enemy  was  struck  when  the  Grafton,  in  accordance 
with  the  Admiral's  orders,  chased  and  captured  the 
German  s.s,  Wilhelm  Behrens  (750  tons)  and  sent  her  into 
Greenock  with  a  prize  crew.  The  German  steamer  Marie 
Glaeser  was  also  captured  by  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
later  in  the  same  day  off  the  Isle  of  Man.  On  the  following 
day  the  Endymion  and  Theseus  joined  the  flag  at  Scapa 
Flow,  and  late  in  the  same  day  the  Crescent  and  Edgar 
put  to  sea,  where  the  Admiral  was  joined  later  on  by  the 
other  ships  of  his  command.  In  accordance  with  the 
orders  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Grand  Fleet,  the 
Rear-Admiral  proceeded,  by  way  of  the  westward  of  the 
Orkneys,  to  the  area  allotted  to  him  in  his  war  orders  ; 
and  thus  began  the  work  of  patrol  which  was  to  be  main- 
tained without  intermission  until  January  1918,  in  face  of 
difficulties  and  hardships  which  no  one  at  that  period 
could  have,  foreseen. 

Throughout  the  period  of  hostilities  the  embarrassments 
which  would  in  any  circumstances  have  arisen  in  main- 
taining the  patrol  were  increased  owing  to  the  decision 

104      MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE       [ch.  v 

of  the  British  Government  that  it  was  undesirable  to 
declare  a  blockade  in  accordance  with  the  generally  recog- 
nised tenets  of  international  law.  It  was  determined  to 
act  under  Orders  in  Council,  the  provisions  of  which  were 
naturally  criticised  in  neutral  countries  and  particularly 
in  the  United  States.  For  in  endeavouring  to  cut  off  all 
Germany's  supplies,  it  followed  inevitably  that  the 
neutral  States  bordering  on  the  enemy's  territory  suffered 
inconvenience  through  their  traders,  who  under  normal 
conditions  carried  on  an  active  commerce  with  the  United 
States  and  other  countries  on  the  American  continent. 
Though  the  officers  commanding  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron,  and  the  senior  officers  of  the  other  naval  forces 
which  co-operated  with  them  during  the  early  period  of  the 
war,  had  no  concern  with  questions  of  international  politics 
or  law,  the  existence  in  the  background  of  controversies 
with  other  countries  demanded  that  the  utmost  discretion 
and  tact  should  be  exercised  in  applying  economic  pressure 
upon  Germany. 

In  the  unparalleled  circumstances  in  which  the  blockade 
of  Germany  was  instituted,  novel  forms  of  procedure  were 
evolved  as  a  result  of  experience,  and  it  soon  became  the 
established  practice  to  send  suspicious  vessels  into  a 
neighbouring  port  for  examination.  This  procedure  was 
the  subject  of  a  good  many  protests  on  the  part  of  neutrals, 
but  it  was  an  inevitable  feature  of  a  blockade  under  modern 
conditions,  as  it  was  difficult  to  open  hatches  in  heavy 
weather  without  wetting  the  cargo,  and  an  order  to  sift 
the  cargo  to  the  bottom  meant  hoisting  it  all  on  deck  and 
keeping  the  ship  in  submarine  waters  many  days — a  source 
of  danger  the  neutral  ships  did  not  care  to  accept. 

Experience  proved  that  it  was  safer  and  more  humane 
in  view  of  the  dangers  of  fog  and  of  storm,  apart  from  the 
activities  of  the  enemy,  to  take  neutral  ships  into  a  pro- 
tected port  for  examination  even  if  the  difficulties  of 
examination  by  sea  had  not  been  insuperable.  Moreover, 
the  British  method  contrasted  favourably  with  that 
adopted  by  the  Germans,  who  seldom,  even  in  the  North 
Sea,  attempted  to  take  a  suspicious  ship,  neutral  or  allied, 
into  port,  but  made  it  an  almost  invariable  practice  to 
sink  her  at  sight,  leaving  the  crew  to  fare  as  best  they  might 
in  small  boats.  The  enemy's  actions  were  in  striking 
contrast  with  the  orders  issued  at  the  beginning  of  the 

CH.  v]  A   COMPLICATED    TASK  105 

war  by  the  Admiralty.  These  directed  that  officers  and 
men  engaged  in  blockade  work  were  to  treat  the  captains 
and  crews  of  suspected  neutral  ships  with  the  utmost 
courtesy  and  consideration,  and  to  place  them  and  their 
vessel  in  as  little  danger  or  inconvenience  as  was  consistent 
with  the  efficient  maintenance  of  the  blockade. 

At  first  the  work  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  was 
carried  out  under  conditions  of  peculiar  difficulty.  The 
Rear-Admiral  commanding  had  been  provided  with  a 
number  of  old  cruisers  with  newly  mobilised  crews  ;  the 
force  had  to  be  transformed  into  an  efficient  and  well- 
disciplined  unit,  and  provision  had  to  be  made  for  keeping 
the  vessels  supplied  with  coal  and  stores.  The  Admiral 
had  also  to  consider  the  problem  of  securing  convenient 
and  suitable  bases.  Over  and  above  all  this,  the  work  of 
the  Squadron  was  subject  to  interruption  owing  to  the 
demands  which  were  made  upon  it.  Early  in  the  month 
of  August  it  was,  for  instance,  required  to  act  as  the 
advance  screen  of  the  Grand  Fleet  during  a  sweep  in  the 
North  Sea  ;  it  steamed  four  miles  ahead  of  the  Grand 
Fleet,  the  whole  force  proceeding  in  the  direction  of  the 
Skagerrak  on  the  lookout  for  the  enemy's  fleet.  At  this 
period,  moreover,  reports  were  repeatedly  reaching  the 
Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Grand  Fleet  of  the  proposed 
movement  of  German  men-of-war  and  armed  merchant- 
men, of  suspicious  happenings  in  the  islands  to  the  north 
of  Scotland,  as  well  as  of  floating  mines  which  often  proved 
to  be  merely  fishing-buoys.  For  these  and  other  reasons 
ships  had  to  be  repeatedly  detached  from  the  patrol,  and 
it  proved  no  easy  matter  in  the  circumstances  to  carry 
out  the  duties  assigned  to  the  Squadron,  which,  owing  to 
the  absence  of  vessels  coaling  or  undergoing  repairs,  was 
never  at  its  full  strength.  The  Admiral  had  also  to 
improvise  a  defensive  system  at  Lerwick,  guns  being 
landed  from  his  squadron  to  enable  the  harbour  to  resist 
an  enemy  raid.  Great  anxiety  prevailed  lest  the  enemy 
should  land  a  large  force  on  the  Shetlands,  and  on 
several  occasions  rumours  of  German  transports  full  of 
troops  having  passed  out  of  the  Baltic  were  received. 
Provision  had  also  to  be  made  for  protecting  the  sup- 
plies of  coal  which  were  being  dispatched  to  the  White 
Sea  for  the  use  of  the  Russians. 

By  the  middle  of  August  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 

106         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

began  to  undergo  a  gradual  change  in  its  composition, 
which  was  eventually  to  lead  to  its  reconstruction.  On 
the  18th  the  armed  merchant  cruiser  Alsatian,  one  of  the 
liners  of  the  Allan  Line,  joined  the  flag,  and  about  a  week 
later  the  Mantua  reported  to  the  Rear-Admiral  for  patrol 
duty,  and  she,  again,  was  joined  by  the  Oceanic  before  the 
end  of  the  month.  The  arduous  and  dangerous  character 
of  the  work  which  had  been  assigned  the  Squadron  was 
soon  made  apparent  by  a  series  of  untoward  incidents. 
On  September  8th  the  Admiral  commanding  received 
information  that  the  Oceanic  was  ashore  at  Hoevdi  Grund 
in  a  dense  fog,  two  and  a  half  miles  E.  by  S.  from 
South  Ness,  Foula  Island,  in  the  Shetlands.  This  liner 
unfortunately  became  a  total  wreck,  the  crew  being 
rescued  by  the  Alsatian  and  landed  at  Liverpool. 

The  arrival  of  the  armed  merchant  cruiser  Teutonic  on 
September  20th  was  a  welcome  accession  to  the  strength 
of  the  Squadron,  but  the  anxieties  of  Admiral  de  Chair 
were  not  lessening,  for  from  day  to  day  reports  reached  him 
of  the  increasing  activity  of  enemy  submarines.  That 
the  menace  to  his  ships,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  zigzagging 
had  become  a  matter  of  daily  routine,  was  a  real  one  was 
soon  to  be  proved  by  an  event  which  robbed  the  patrol 
of  one  of  its  units  and  resulted  in  the  loss  of  560  lives.  On 
the  afternoon  of  October  15th  the  Theseus  reported  the 
presence  of  submarines  on  the  patrol  line  on  which  she  was 
operating  in  company  with  the  Edgar,  Theseus,  and 
Hawke.  a  torpedo  had  been  fired  at  her,  passing  astern 
without  doing  any  damage.  The  senior  officer  promptly 
ordered  all  the  cruisers  to  proceed  north-west  at  full  speed. 

At  that  time  the  Hawke  was  not  in  sight.  Earlier  in  the 
morning  she  had  been  observed  steaming  to  the  south-west 
to  examine  a  steamer,  and  that  proved  to  be  the  last  that 
was  seen  of  the  ship.  At  4.30  that  afternoon  Admiral 
de  Chair  endeavoured  to  get  into  touch  with  the  Hawke 
by  wireless,  but  without  result.  He  immediately  reported 
the  ominous  silence  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the 
Grand  Fleet,  and  the  Swift  was  directed  to  proceed  from 
Scapa  at  high  speed  to  search  for  the  Hawke  in  the 
position  from  which  she  had  last  been  reported.  Two 
divisions  of  destroyers  were  afterwards  dispatched  from 
Scapa  to  search  for  the  vessel.  On  the  following  day  the 
Swift  picked  up  a  raft  with  an  officer  and  twenty  men — 

CH.  V]  LOSS   OF   THE   "  HAWKE  "  107 

the  sole  survivors  of  the  Hawke,  which,  it  was  then  learnt, 
had  been  sunk  by  a  submarine. 

Within  a  short  time  of  the  raft  being  sighted,  the 
Swift  herself  was  attacked  by  one  or  more  submarines 
while  engaged  in  her  work  of  rescue,  several  torpedoes 
being  fired  at  her.  It  was  only  with  great  difficulty  that 
the  Swift,  manoeuvring  at  high  speed  amid  the  wreckage, 
with  destroyers  screening  her,  succeeded  in  rescuing  these 
survivors.  In  spite  of  the  danger  in  which  he  stood. 
Captain  Charles  T.  Wintour  remained  on  the  scene  of  the 
disaster  until  he  was  satisfied  that  there  was  no  one  else 
to  be  picked  up. 

The  loss  of  the  Hawke  convinced  the  Commander- 
in-Chief  of  the  Grand  Fleet  that  these  large  and  old 
cruisers  were  being  risked  unduly  by  employment  without 
destroyers  in  the  central  part  of  the  North  Sea.  It  was 
decided,  therefore,  to  withdraw  the  ships  to  a  better 
strategic  position  to  the  northward  and  eastward  of  the 
Shetland  Islands,  the  smaller  craft  being  directed  to  watch 
the  Fair  Island  Channel  and  the  Pentland  Firth  approaches 
to  the  North  Sea.  At  the  same  time  it  was  arranged  that 
the  Battle  Fleet,  when  possible,  should  be  kept  to  the 
westward  of  the  Orkneys,  forming  at  once  a  support  for 
the  cruisers  and  a  second  blockade  line,  or  that  it  should 
cruise  to  the  north  and  east  of  the  Shetland  Islands  with 
its  destroyer  screen,  the  cruisers  patrolling  farther  south. 

As  the  winter  closed  in  reports  from  the  patrols  indicated 
that  the  cruisers  of  the  Edgar  class  were  ill-fitted  for  the 
arduous  sea  work  that  had  been  assigned  to  them,  particu- 
larly as  in  chasing  suspicious  merchant  vessels  it  was  often 
necessary  that  their  old  boilers  and  engines  should  be  hard 
pressed.  Frequent  gales  with  high  seas  running  also 
contributed  to  the  conviction  that  the  vessels  were  un- 
suited  for  patrol  duties  in  these  latitudes.  On  October 
29th  the  Grafton  reported  that  her  main  condenser  was 
leaking,  that  her  funnels  were  showing  signs  of  weakness, 
and  that  it  was  feared  that  the  copper  expansion  ring  at 
the  back  of  the  port  high-pressure  slide  was  fractured. 
On  the  same  day,  during  a  combined  movement  to  cut  off 
a  suspicious  steamer,  the  Theseus  signalled  that  she  had 
broken  down  and  had  had  to  ease  steam  owing  to  engine 
defects.  In  spite  of  these  misfortunes  this  steamer,  which 
proved    to    be    the   Bergensjiord,    was    captured    by    the 

108         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND    BLOCKADE     [cir.  v 

Endymion.  She  had  on  board  the  German  Consul- 
General  from  Seoul,  Korea,  together  with  six  German 
stowaways.  She  was  on  passage  from  New  York  to 
Bergen  with  mails  and  passengers  and  general  cargo,  and 
a  quantity  of  crude  rubber  and  copper.  The  ship  was 
sent  into  Kirkwall  for  examination.  On  the  following 
day  the  troubles  of  the  Squadron  were  increased,  when 
the  Endymion  reported  serious  defects,  and  the  Crescent 
also  was  experiencing  mechanical  troubles.  Early  in 
November  the  Grafton,  which  had  already  developed 
engine  defects,  had  to  leave  the  patrol  for  five  days,  owing 
to  a  number  of  rivets  connecting  the  furnace  and  combus- 
tion chamber  in  one  of  her  boilers  becoming  loose.  She 
was  followed  the  next  day  into  port  by  the  Endymion, 
with  several  perforations  in  the  inner  bottom  over  the 
feed  tank. 

Confronted  with  these  difficulties,  Admiral  de  Chair, 
in  spite  of  heavy  seas  and  strong  wind,  struggled  to 
maintain  the  patrol  as  best  he  could.  On  November 
11th,  the  Edgar  having  developed  engine  defects,  the 
Admiral  proceeded  with  his  depleted  force  to  take  up  the 
work  of  the  northern  patrol  once  more,  when  he  encoun- 
tered a  storm  to  the  west  of  the  Shetlands  which  led  even- 
tually to  the  decision  to  withdraw  all  these  old  cruisers 
from  this  arduous  work.  The  sea  conditions  were  such 
that  the  Squadron  had  to  heave  to  owing  to  the  fierceness 
of  the  gale.  During  the  forenoon  heavy  seas  swept  over 
the  fore  part  of  the  Crescent  (flag-ship),  wrecking  the 
fore  bridge,  sweeping  overboard  the  Admiral's  sea  cabin, 
carrying  away  the  ventilating  cowls  of  the  foremost  stoke- 
holds— a  considerable  amount  of  water  passing  downwards 
and  putting  the  fires  out — breaking  hammock  nettings, 
seriously  damaging  the  port  cutters,  besides  removing 
bodily  a  whaler,  and  tearing  away  hawser  reels  and  deck 
fittings  owing  to  the  rotten  state  of  the  woodwork.  The 
Edgar  lost  an  able  seaman,  who  was  swept  overboard, 
and  a  cutter  was  damaged.  She  also  sustained  other 
injuries.  The  Theseus,  which  was  nearer  under  the  lee 
of  the  Shetland  Islands,  suffered  less  seriously.  After 
temporary  repairs  had  been  effected  to  the  Crescent  at 
Swarbacks  Minn,  Rear-Admiral  de  Chair  proceeded  to 
Scapa  Flow. 

On    arrival    he    was    informed    by  the  Commander-in- 

CH.  V] 



Chief  that  it  had  been  decided  to  send  half  the  ships 
of  his  squadron  to  the  Clyde  Yard  for  refit.  A  few 
days  later  conferences  were  held  with  the  Admiralty 
officials  as  to  the  amount  of  work  which  was  to  be  done 
in  the  Crescent,  Royal  Arthur,  and  Grafton.  The 
whole  work  was  to  be  completed  by  December  7th.  In  the 
meantime,  however,  the  future  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron  was  reviewed  by  the  Admiralty,  and  on  Novem- 
ber 20th  it  was  decided  that  the  seven  Edgar  cruisers, 
whose  unfitness  for  the  work  of  the  patrol  had  been  fully 
demonstrated,  should  return  at  once  to  their  home  port 
and  pay  off.  The  experiment  of  utilising  these  old  ships 
had  not  succeeded,  and  in  light  of  the  experience  which 
had  already  been  gained  with  armed  merchant  cruisers, 
possessing  good  sea-keeping  qualities,  it  was  determined 
to  reconstitute  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron. 

Rear- Admiral  de  Chair  hoisted  his  flag  in  the  Alsatian, 
at  Liverpool,  on  December  4th,  in  command  of  his  new 
force,  which  it  was  arranged  should  consist  of  the  following 
twenty-four  armed   merchant   cruisers  : 

Alsatian  (Flag) 

Eskimo  . 




Hilary    . 



Cedric     . 

Orotava  . 

Clan  Macnaughton 

Digby     . 

Otway     . 


Patuca   . 

Bayano  . 









Re-arming  with  6- inch  guns  at  Liverpool. 

-Fitting  out  at  Liverpool. 

-Fitting  out  at  London. 

■Fitting  out  at  Avonmouth. 

Fitting  out  at  Hull. 
Fitting  out  on  the  Tyne. 
Fitting  out  on  the  Clyde. 

-On  the  Northern  Patrol. 

Was  employed  on  special  service  proceeding  to 
west  coast  of  Africa,  with  orders  to  join  Admiral 
de  Chair's  flag  on  her  return. 

For  the  time  being,  though  other  naval  forces  were  being 
temporarily  pressed  into  the  service,  the  blockade  of  the 

110         MERCHANT   SEAMEN   AND   BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

enemy  was  somewhat  relaxed.  The  presence  at  sea  of 
the  reconstituted  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  was  urgently- 
necessary,  but  unfortunately  the  work  of  fitting  out  was 
subject  to  repeated  delays,  partially  due  to  recurrent 
labour  troubles.  At  Liverpool,  as  well  as  at  London 
and  Avonmouth,  constant  pressure  had  to  be  exerted  by 
the  commanding  officers  and  the  officers  superintending 
the  work  on  board.  The  first  ship  to  be  completed  was  the 
Cedric,  which  was  finished  on  December  11th,  but  it  was 
not  until  January  16th  that  the  Motagua  was  ready  for  sea. 
The  change  in  the  character  of  the  Squadron  also  involved 
a  great  many  alterations  in  the  administration.  One  of 
the  most  difficult  problems  was  connected  with  coaling, 
and  a  roster  had  to  be  established  to  enable  the  ships  to 
proceed  in  proper  rotation  to  Liverpool  or  Glasgow  for 
this  purpose.  On  passage  to  the  Mersey  and  Clyde,  it  was 
recognised  that  they  were  exposed  to  the  considerable 
risk  of  being  torpedoed.  This  disadvantage  had  to  be 
accepted.  Owing  to  the  many  demands  which  were  then 
being  made  upon  the  light  craft  of  the  Navy,  it  was  impos- 
sible to  provide  an  escort  at  any  stage  of  the  voyage. 
That  losses  were  not  incurred  was  due  largely  to  the  fine 
spirit  exhibited  by  officers  and  men,  and  to  the  sense  of 
discipline  and  esprit  de  corps  which  was  rapidly  developed 
under  very  unusual  conditions.  For  the  personnel  of  the 
Squadron  consisted  only  of  a  leavening  of  naval  officers 
and  men  accustomed  to  the  naval  routine,  and  for  the  rest 
the  crews  consisted  of  ratings  of  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve 
and  the  Mercantile  Marine,  in  addition  to  the  small 
number  of  men  of  the  Royal  Fleet  Reserve.  The  higher 
signal  ratings  were  drawn  from  the  Navy,  and  these  were 
assisted  by  Royal  Naval  Volunteer  Reserve  men.  The 
wireless  installations  were  in  charge  of  naval  ratings, 
largely  reinforced  by  Marconi  operators.  The  ships  were 
under  the  command  of  naval  officers,  but  for  navigational 
purposes  the  masters,  accustomed  to  handling  them,  were 
in  most  cases  retained,  together  with  a  large  proportion 
of  the  other  mercantile  officers.  Among  the  crews  were 
a  large  number  of  men  who  had  served  in  the  ships  under 
peace  conditions,  and  the  commanding  officers,  realising 
the  ordeal  to  which  these  merchant  seamen  were  submit- 
ting with  splendid  devotion,  adopted  every  possible 
measure  to  ameliorate  the  conditions  in  which  they  lived. 


In  such  large  passenger  ships  as  had  been  requisitioned 
for  patrol  duty,  the  provision  of  ample  cabin  space  is 
generally  recognised  as  of  the  first  importance  if  the 
vessels  are  to  be  run  at  a  profit,  and  consequently  the 
quarters  of  the  crew  are  often  cramped  and  uncomfortable. 
The  men  under  peace  conditions  are  at  sea  only  for  a 
comparatively  short  period,  and  find  compensations  for 
the  discomforts  experienced  afloat  during  their  frequent 
periods  of  relaxation  ashore.  The  patrol  service  on  which 
these  ships  were  engaged  involved,  on  the  other  hand, 
lengthy  periods  at  sea  under  exceptionally  arduous  con- 
ditions, and  it  was  found  feasible  to  increase  the  accom- 
modation of  the  men  and  to  improve  the  amenities  of  life. 
A  special  effort  was  made  to  minister  to  the  comfort  of 
the  firemen.  Under  ordinary  conditions  of  service,  the 
fireman  of  the  Mercantile  Marine  seldom  troubled  to 
change  his  clothes,  although  the  Board  of  Trade  regula- 
tions require  that  washing  facilities  shall  be  provided. 
During  a  cross-Atlantic  trip  many  of  these  men  are  con- 
tent to  sleep  in  the  clothes  in  which  they  work,  and 
owing  to  the  state  of  their  bedding  at  the  end  of  the 
voyage,  it  is  frequently  burnt.  The  captains  of  the  ships 
of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  saw  to  it  that  every 
facility  was  provided  to  encourage  the  men  to  wash  and 
to  shift  into  clean  rig  as  soon  as  their  work  was  done. 
It  became  the  aim  of  the  officers,  in  short,  to  introduce 
naval  routine,  which  meant  that  the  men  were  shifted 
into  clean  rig  after  each  spell  of  work,  and  were  en- 
couraged to  make  the  most  of  their  leisure  time.  In 
addition  to  improved  living-quarters,  they  were  given 
an  airy  smoking-room  in  each  vessel.  In  the  Alsatian 
this  smoking-room  became  one  of  the  "  show  places  " 
in  the  ship,  and  the  men  exhibited  great  pride  in  its 
cleanliness  and  decoration. 

The  conditions  under  which  patrol  was  maintained  at 
the  turn  of  the  years  1914-15  is  reflected  in  the  diary 
of  the  Admiral  commanding : 

"  Tuesday,  December  29th. — Left  '  A '  Patrol  in  Alsatian 
and  proceeded  south  of  Faeroe  Islands  to  '  B  '  Patrol  in 
order  to  get  into  touch  with  Cedric  and  Hildebrand. 
Calyx  searched  for  mine  (probably  one  of  those  laid  off 
Tory  Island)  reported  west  of  Hebrides.  Information 
II— 9 

112         MERCHANT   SEAMEN   AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

was  received  of  arrival  of  Teutonic  at  Liverpool  and 
sailing  of  Viknor  from  Tyne. 

"  Wednesday,  December  30th. — Wind  from  S.S.W.  back- 
ing to  S.S.E.,  force  7  and  squally,  heavy  sea,  but  several 
neutral  steamers  were  intercepted  by  Squadron.  It  was 
too  rough  to  board,  but  ships  were  taken  under  lee  of  the 
land  and  prize  crews  put  on  board.  They  were  then  sent 
in  to  Kirkwall.     Calyx  was  ordered  to  Liverpool  to  coal. 

"  Thursday,  December  Slst. — Wind  still  southerly,  blow- 
ing hard,  hail  and  snow  squalls,  heavy  sea.  Eleven 
ships  on  patrol ;  five  coaling  and  four  not  yet  joined. 
Ships  at  Tilbury  and  Avonmouth  still  delayed  by  labour 
disputes  and  strikes. 

"  Friday,  January  1st,  1915. — Heavy  gale  from  south, 
backing  to  south-east.  Glass  fell  to  28-50°  ;  very  heavy 
sea.  Detached  Virginian  to  patrol  north  of  Iceland  to  see 
if  shipping  were  passing  that  way,  and  also  to  report  if 
passage  were  blocked  with  ice.  Mantua  patrolling  passage 
between  Iceland  and  Faeroes.  Alsatian  reinforced  '  C  ' 
Patrol  as  Otway  was  escorting  ships  to  Kirkwall.  Hilary 
was  ordered  to  stand  by  dismantled  Norwegian  sailing- 
ship  till  gale  moderated. 

"  Viknor  joined  '  B  '  Patrol,  but  owing  to  damage  sus- 
tained in  gale,  had  to  take  shelter   in  Burra  Sound. 

"  Impressed  the  importance  of  armed  merchant  cruisers 
of  not  interfering  with  neutral  ships'  colours,  and  also  of 
treating  them  with  courtesy. 

"  Saturday,  January  2nd. — Wind  in  south-east,  force  9, 
heavy  sea.  Glass  fell  to  28-10°.  Hilary  reported  that  at 
1.15  a.m.,  while  towing  Norwegian  barque  Marietta,  which 
had  been  dismasted,  the  vessel  sprang  a  leak  and  foundered. 
Her  crew  took  to  the  boats,  but  one  boat  capsized  and 
only  six  men  were  saved.  Among  those  drowned  were 
Sub-Lieutenant  Oswald  E.  Miles,  R.N.R.,  and  Frank 
Scott,  Signalman,  O.N.D.J.  5747,  of  Hilary. 

"  Cedric  was  lying  to  with  prize,  weather  being  too 
bad  to  board.  Hilary  proceeded  to  Kirkwall  to  land 
survivors  of  Norwegian  barque. 

"  Sunday,  January  Srd. — Gale  moderating,  glass  rising, 
weather  clearing.  Each  ship  of  '  D  '  Patrol  having  two 
prize  crews  away,  also  several  prize  crews  being  away  from 
ships  of  '  B  '  and  '  C  '  Patrols,  arranged  for  Hilary  to 
bring    them    out    and    distribute    them.     Was    informed 




\t , 













*„^  "%5  ■■  - 


by  the  Admiral  at  Queenstown  that  Orotava  had  left  that 
port  to  join  my  flag.  This  armed  merchant  cruiser  had 
left  London  about  December  24th,  but,  owing  to  incom- 
plete state  and  defects  developed,  she  had  put  into  Queens- 
town  for  necessary  repairs,  etc. 

"  Monday,  January  4th. — Bayano  arrived  and  was  placed 
under  orders  of  Otway  on  '  C  '  Patrol. 

"  Virginian  was  detached  to  Liverpool  to  coal,  with 
orders  to  return  as  soon  as  possible  in  readiness  to  join 
special  patrol  with  Teutonic  and  Mantua  off  Norway, 
ordered  by  Commander-in-Chief  for  January  10th. 

"  Digby  reported  sailing  from  Thames  to  join  my  flag. 

"  Tuesday,  January  5th. — Mantua  was  detached  to 
Liverpool  to  coal,  with  orders  similar  to  those  given  to 

"  Directed  the  senior  officers  of  '  B  '  and  '  C  '  Patrols  to 
shift  their  respective  base-lines  twenty  miles  to  the  west- 
ward at  8  a.m.,  at  the  same  time  warning  them  of  the 
reported  presence  of  submarines  off  the  Shetlands. 

"  Hildebrand  reported  that  in  consequence  of  the  sub- 
marine menace  she  was  unable  to  go  to  Kirkwall,  and 
that  destroyers  were  being  sent  to  bring  in  the  steamer 
Denver,  which  she  was  escorting.  I  therefore  directed 
Hilary,  which  was  still  at  Kirkwall,  to  bring  out  all  prize 
crews  and  distribute  them  to  their  own  ships,  leaving  the 
harbour  after  dark. 

"  Wednesday,  January  6th. — Orotava  joined  '  B  '  Patrol 
and  Oropesa  returned  to  '  C  '  Patrol. 

"  Paiia  was  reported  leaving  Avonmouth  and  Virginian 
arrived  at  Liverpool.  Detached  Caribbean  to  Liverpool 
to  coal.  Hilary  proceeded  to  St.  Kilda,  where  she  trans- 
ferred '  D  '  Patrol  prize  crews  to  Hildebrand. 

"  Alsatian  was  working  to  westward  of  '  C  '  Patrol  on 
a  track  approximating  to  the  Atlantic  route  used  by 
vessels  passing  north  of  Shetlands. 

"  Thursday,  January  7th. — Changuinola  was  reported 
leaving  Avonmouth,  and  Mantua  arrived  at  Liver- 

"  Alsatian  proceeded  to  westward  as  far  as  St.  Kilda 
to  communicate  with  '  D  '  Patrol  and  returned  towards 
'  B  '  Patrol  at  night. 

"  Cedric  reported  an  accident  which  occurred  when 
hoisting  in  her  motor-boat  after  boarding  ;    four  seamen 

114         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

were  injured  and  the  boat  had  to  be  abandoned  as  a  total 

"  Friday,  January  8th. — ^Directed  the  senior  officer  of 
'  C  '  Patrol  {Otway  temporarily)  to  extend  his  patrol  from 
lat.  59°  30'  N.  to  lat.  61°  10'  N. 

"  During  the  forenoon  I  communicated  by  boat  with 
Cedric  and  gave  her  the  necessary  directions  for  carrying 
out  her  patrol, 

"  Saturday,  January  9th. — With  the  approval  of  the 
Commander-in-Chief,  I  remained  south  of  the  Faeroe 
Islands  in  order  to  direct  patrol,  and  with  the  special 
purpose  of  insuring  the  interception  of  the  Norwegian 
mail  steamer  Bergensfjord,  which  M^as  expected  to  pass 
through  patrol  areas  between  January  9th  and  13th,  and 
was  reported  to  have  German  reservists  on  board,  travel- 
ling under   neutral   passports. 

"  Hildehrand  reported  that  all  prize  crews  had  been 
distributed  to  their  ships. 

"  Clan  Macnaughton  was  reported  to  be  unable  to  attain 
a  speed  of  more  than  11|^  knots. 

"  Mantua  at  Liverpool  informed  me  that  she  had  devel- 
oped a  leak  which  necessitated  docking  her  ;  she  would 
not  be  ready  to  sail  till  about  19th. 

"  Digby  arrived  from  London  and  joined  '  B  '  Patrol. 

"  Find  it  very  difficult  to  keep  touch  with  other  patrols 
when  north  of  the  Faeroes,  due  to  the  short  range  and  small 
power  of  the  Marconi  W/T  apparatus  with  which  the 
armed  merchant  cruisers  are  fitted." 

On  the  day  on  which  the  Admiral  commanding  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  learnt  that  the  Motagua,  the 
last  of  the  armed  merchant  cruisers  to  be  completed,  was 
leaving  Avonmouth  to  join  his  flag,  news  was  received 
that  the  Viknor  had  not  reached  Liverpool  with  the 
prisoners  taken  out  of  the  Norwegian  steamer  Bergensfjord, 
The  Viknor  had  intercepted  this  vessel  in  lat.  62°  10'  N., 
long.  2°  24'  W.  On  learning  of  this  success,  the  Rear- 
Admiral,  in  the  Alsatian,  at  once  proceeded  to  this  position 
in  company  with  the  Patia  and  the  Teutonic.  He  found 
the  Viknor  standing  by  the  Norwegian  ship,  having 
arrested  a  passenger  on  board  who  was  travelling  under 
the  name  of  Spero  with  a  neutral  passport.  This  pas- 
senger  admitted   that    his   real   name   was    Baron    Hans 

CH.  v]  MINES   IN   THE  NORTH   SEA  115 

Adam  von  Wedel,  who  was  wanted  by  the  British  Govern- 
ment on  suspicion  of  being  a  German  secret  agent.  He 
claimed  American  citizenship.  Six  stowaways  and  a 
passenger  who  were  beheved  to  be  German  reservists 
were  also  arrested  and  removed  to  the  Viknor.  The  cir- 
cumstances in  which  the  Bergensfjord  had  been  inter- 
cepted had  aroused  suspicion.  She  had  passed  north 
of  the  Faeroes  by  night,  evidently  with  the  purpose  of 
avoiding  the  patrol,  and  had  no  intention  of  calling  at 
Kirkwall  for  examination  in  accordance  with  the  now 
established  routine.  A  prize  crew  was  put  on  board, 
and  the  Viknor  was  directed  to  escort  the  Bergensfjord  to 
Kirkwall,  afterwards  proceeding  herself  to  Liverpool  to 
land  her  prisoners  and  complete  with  coal.  The  Alsatian 
took  up  a  position  on  the  other  beam,  and  in  this  fashion 
the  Norwegian  ship  was  taken  towards  the  Scottish  port. 
On  the  following  day  the  Viknor  made  her  position 
through  Malin  Head  signal  station.  Three  days  later 
Rear- Admiral  Henry  Stileman,  senior  officer  at  Liverpool, 
reported  that  the  Viknor  had  not  arrived  at  that 
port.  A  report  subsequently  received  from  Port  Rush 
suggested  that  she  had  struck  a  mine  off  the  north  coast  of 
Scotland  and  had  been  lost  with  all  hands.  At  this 
period,  in  addition  to  the  menace  of  the  submarine,  the 
ships  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  had  to  face  a  deter- 
mined attempt  by  the  enemy  to  mine  the  waters  in  which 
the  Northern  Patrol  was  being  maintained.  Day  after 
day  mines  were  being  reported  in  the  North  Sea,  as  well 
as  on  the  west  coasts  of  Scotland  and  Ireland,  and  it  was 
assumed  that  many  of  them  were  mines  which  had  broken 
adrift  from  their  moorings  during  the  gales  which  had 
recently  been  experienced.  As  they  were  not  provided 
with  safety  appliances,  as  provided  for  under  the  Hague 
Convention,  they  were  a  constant  source  of  danger  to 
shipping,  naval  and  mercantile,  especially  at  night.  In 
spite,  however,  of  all  the  difficulties  with  which  it  was 
faced  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  was  maintaining  the 
blockade  in  greater  efficiency  than  ever  ;  between  Decem- 
ber 26th  and  January  18th  no  fewer  than  eighty  ships 
were  intercepted,  of  which  fifty-two  had  been  eastward 
bound.  It  was  a  source  of  encouragement  to  officers  and 
men  that  the  Admiralty  was  seized  with  a  due  appreciation 
of  the  work  that  was  done.     They  placed  on  record  at 

116         MERCHANT   SEAMEN   AND   BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

this  time  their  high  opinion  of  the  manner  in  which  the 
operation  was  being  carried  out,  stating  that  "  the  work 
of  the  vessels  of  the  Northern  Patrol  is  an  extremely 
arduous  one.  Winter  gales  are  incessant ;  four  vessels 
have  gone  down — two  with  all  hands  and  the  others  with 
heavy  loss  of  life."  It  was  added  that  "the  approach 
of  long  summer  days  increases  enormously  the  submarine 
risk.  No  blockade  in  history  has  ever  been  so  effective 
from  a  naval  point  of  view,  or  so  full  of  unexpected 

At  the  end  of  January  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  was 
disposed  on  the  following  lines  : 

"  A  "  Patrol. 
North  of  the  Faeroes. 
Alsatian  (Flag). 

"  B  "  Patrol. 
North  of  Shetlands. 

Teutonic  (Senior  Officer). 






"  C  "  Patrol. 
South  of  Sydero. 
Motagua  (Senior  Officer). 

"  D  "  Patrol. 
West  of  Hebrides. 
Hildebrand  (Senior  Officer). 
Clan  Macnaughton. 

This  disposition  had  been  found  the  most  effective  for 
intercepting  blockade-runners  attempting  to  break  through 
going  east  or  enemy  raiders  and  mine-layers  going  west. 
The  principle  on  which  this  new  organisation  was  based 
was  that  the  actual  lines  of  patrols  were  sufficiently  far 
apart  to  ensure  that  those  ships  which  passed  one  line 
by  night  were  almost  certain  to  be  intercepted  by  the 
other  during  daylight.  The  ships  on  each  line  of  patrol 
were,  as  a  rule,  thirty  miles  apart  and  kept  a  uniform 
speed  of  13  knots  in  the  same  direction,  altering  course 
16  points  every  three  hours  ;    by  this  means  it  was  impos- 


sible  for  any  blockade-runner  to  get  through  a  Hne  in 
clear  weather  during  the  hours  of  daylight,  the  end  ships 
of  the  patrol  being  in  sight  of  land  for  the  required  time. 
The  following  form  of  signal  made  to  any  group  of  ships 
was  quite  sufficient  to  place  them  on  any  patrol  in  the 
shortest  possible  time. 

From  To 

S.O.  10th  C.S.     Cedric.  "  C"  Patrol  cross  line  34°fromlat.  58°  35'  N., 

Victorian.  long.  Q°  W.,  at  10  a.m.  and  2  a.m.  daily, 

Patia.  steering  240°  and  60°  respectively  25  miles 

Orotava.  apart  from  the  south,   Cedric,    Victorian, 

Teutonic.  Patia,  Orotava,  Teutonic,  Alcantara  ;  speed 

Alcantara.  14  knots.     Assume  this  order  at  6  p.m. 

to-night,  Monday. 

The  reconstruction  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
tended  to  render  the  blockade  far  more  efficient,  owing 
to  the  better  seaworthy  qualities  of  the  armed  merchant 
cruisers  as  compared  with  the  ships  of  the  Edgar  class. 
But  the  boarding  of  steamers  in  stormy  weather  still 
imposed  upon  officers  and  men  arduous  and  perilous 
duties.  It  was  often  a  matter  of  considerable  danger 
to  place  a  prize  crew  on  board  a  ship  which  had  been 
intercepted  and  which  it  was  thought  advisable  to  send 
into  port  for  examination.  In  the  third  week  in  February 
1915  it  was  indeed  a  matter  of  great  difficulty  to  main- 
tain the  efficiency  of  the  patrol.  On  the  17th  a  heavy  gale 
from  the  south-east,  backing  to  E.  by  N.,  was  experienced 
in  the  northern  latitudes  in  which  the  squadron  was 
working.  The  glass  fell  rapidly  from  29-80°  to  28-56°  and 
snow  and  hail  in  heavy  showers  descended.  A  number  of 
the  ships  had  to  lie  to  owing  to  the  force  of  the  storm. 
The  Columhella  was  unable  to  steer  the  course  assigned 
to  her,  and  the  Calyx  had  to  run  to  the  west  of  Loch 
Tarbert  for  shelter.  To  add  to  the  troubles  of  these 
merchant  seamen  on  war  duty,  it  was  reported  that  five 
submarines  had  been  seen  not  far  from  Cape  Wrath  making 
west,  apparently  in  order  to  harass  British  shipping. 
The  gale  continued  throughout  the  following  day,  the  wind 
coming  from  the  east-south-east ;  from  time  to  time  there 
were  snow  squalls,  and  it  was  too  rough  to  lower  boats. 

The  conditions  confronting  the  Admiral  commanding 
constituted  a  nice  problem  in  seamanship  and  exercised  his 
judgment  to  the  utmost.     As  an  illustration  we  have  the 

118         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

case  of  the  Ccesarea  when  she  was  about  to  leave  Scapa 
with  thirteen  prize  crews,  which  eight  vessels  of  the 
squadron  had  placed  on  board  neutral  ships  which  had 
been  sent  into  port.  Owing  to  weather  conditions,  the 
speed  of  the  squadron  having  been  reduced,  and  in  several 
cases  ships  having  been  compelled  to  lie  to,  he  signalled 
to  the  Ccesarea  postponing  her  departure  as  there  was  no 
possibility  of  transferring  the  men  to  their  ships.  The 
Ccesarea  had,  however,  already  sailed.  In  due  course 
she  reached  the  arranged  rendezvous  with  her  prize 
crews,  but  owing  to  the  state  of  the  sea  it  was  impossible 
to  launch  a  boat  and  consequently  she  had  to  return  to 
Scapa.  By  the  close  of  the  week,  in  spite  of  all  the  diffi- 
culties experienced,  no  fewer  than  fifty-one  ships,  an 
average  of  over  seven  a  day,  had  been  intercepted,  of 
which  twelve  had  been  sent  into  port  with  prize  crews. 
By  the  week-end,  indeed,  the  Rear-Admiral  found  that 
fifteen  prize  crews  were  away  from  their  ships,  and  that 
owing  to  the  weather  there  was  no  immediate  hope  of 
their  return. 

The  arduous  conditions  of  service  began  to  tell  on 
some  of  the  men.  A  number  of  mercantile  ratings  who 
had  signed  on  for  three  months  expressed  themselves 
unwilling  to  re-engage,  thus  raising  a  new  problem  which 
had  not  been  foreseen.  It  was  one,  however,  for  which 
a  remedy  was  found.  An  idea  of  the  lives  these  men 
were  leading  can  be  obtained  not  only  from  what  has 
been  stated  as  to  weather  conditions,  but  is  typified  in  the 
experience  of  the  Caribbean.  This  vessel,  on  February 
24th,  was  proving  unsuitable  for  patrol  work,  as  she  was 
old  and  slow,  and  rolled  badly  in  the  heavy  weather 
generally  experienced  in  these  latitudes.  On  February  24th 
she  reported  that  one  dynamo  was  completely  disabled, 
and  that  her  foremost  funnel  had  shifted  owing  to  heavy 
rolling  ;  the  roll  in  each  direction  sometimes  exceeded 
40°,  and  occasionally  reached  50°,  and  not  infrequently 
a  gunwale  was  submerged.  Towards  the  end  of  the  month 
another  heavy  southerly  gale  with  big  seas  was  experienced. 
Once  again  it  proved  impossible  to  distribute  prize  crews 
among  the  ships  to  which  they  belonged,  and  the  vessels 
of  the  patrol  had  to  lie  to. 

The  problems  with  which  the  captains  of  the  ships 
of  the  squadron  had  sometimes  to  deal  may  be  gathered 


from  an  incident  which  occurred  on  February  27th.  At 
2.25  a.m.  the  Patuca  had  intercepted  the  American 
s.s.  Navahoe,  from  Bremen  bound  for  Norfolk  (U.S.A.), 
steering  west  with  side  Hghts,  but  no  steaming  Hghts. 
When  she  was  sighted,  she  altered  course  16  points.  On 
being  overhauled  she  stopped,  but  as  it  was  too  rough 
to  board  she  was  signalled  to  follow  the  Patuca  under  the 
lee  of  the  land,  where  examination  of  papers  might  be 
carried  out.  On  this  the  captain  reported  his  condenser 
broken,  and  added  that  it  would  take  three  hours  to 
repair  it.  Later  he  made  the  following  signal :  "  Con- 
denser ready;  no  contraband;  refuse  to  follow  you." 
The  Patuca  was  ordered  to  retain  her  until  the  weather 
moderated,  and  to  board  and  examine  her  when  possible. 
At  5  p.m.  the  Patuca  reported  that  the  Navahoe  signalled 
"  Lead,"  and  was  following  her  towards  St.  Kilda.  On 
the  following  morning,  at  3,50  the  Patuca  boarded  the 
Navahoe  under  the  lee  of  St.  Kilda.  In  a  very  heavy 
squall  the  boarding  boat  was  swamped  alongside  and  had 
to  be  cut  adrift,  but  the  officers  and  crew  managed  to  get 
on  board  the  steamer.  The  Patuca  then  proceeded  with 
the  Navahoe  and  hove  to  thirty-three  miles  north  of  the 
island.  As  the  state  of  the  weather — a  gale  was  blowing 
from  the  north-west — prevented  hatches  being  lifted  for 
examination,  and  the  captain  said  he  would  require  drink- 
ing and  boiler  water  shortly,  the  Admiral  directed  the 
Patuca  to  take  the  Navahoe  to  Stornoway,  the  nearest 
port,  and  carry  out  the  examination  there.  It  was  reported 
later  that  no  mines  or  oil  fuel  were  discovered  at  this 
examination,  and  the  ship  appeared  to  be  in  ballast,  so  all 
ended  well.  This  incident  followed  closely  upon  the 
untimely  death  from  exposure  of  the  commanding  officer 
of  the  Patuca,  Commander  France-Hayhurst,  R.N.  He 
died  at  Glasgow  on  the  24th. 

Soon  after  March  opened,  intelligence  was  received  of 
the  sinking  of  one  of  the  ships  of  the  squadron — the 
Bayano.  On  the  10th  there  were  no  fewer  than  five  armed 
merchant  cruisers  in  the  Clyde,  a  port  that  had  for  some 
time  been  utilised  by  a  portion  of  the  squadron  for  coaling 
and  repairs.  That  night,  which  was  very  dark,  the  Bayano 
put  to  sea  without  lights  to  rejoin  the  flag.  At  5.15  a.m. 
she  was  attacked  by  a  submarine  ten  miles  S.E.  by  E. 
from  Corsewall  Point  off  the  Galway  coast  and  sunk  with 

120         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

a  heavy  loss  of  life.  On  the  same  day  the  Ambrose,  on 
reaching  Liverpool,  reported  that  she  had  been  attacked 
off  Oversay  Island  by  a  submarine  on  three  separate 
occasions.  Two  torpedoes  were  fired,  one  in  the  first 
and  one  in  the  second  attack,  but  on  the  third  occasion 
the  conning-tower  of  the  submarine  was  seen  about  400 
yards  on  the  port  quarter.  Fire  was  at  once  opened, 
and  a  hit  was  apparently  scored  after  eight  or  nine  rounds. 
The  first  successful  shot  threw  up  a  thick  water  mist,  and 
on  two  subsequent  projectiles  striking  the  water  in  the 
same  place,  a  thick  oily-looking  spray  appeared.  Nothing 
more  was  seen  of  the  enemy  craft.  The  Ambrose  was  of 
slow  speed  and  her  escape  was  undoubtedly  due  to  the 
skilful  manner  in  which  Commander  Bruton  manoeuvred 
the  vessel,  and  to  the  accuracy  of  the  fire  of  the  gunners. 
Three  days  later,  while  proceeding  north  from  the  Clyde, 
the  Digby  was  also  chased  by  a  submarine  off  Skerryvore. 
She  took  refuge  in  Tobermory  Harbour,  but  on  the  following 
day,  having  obtained  a  destroyer  escort,  she  proceeded 
in  safety  to  her  patrol  area. 

On  February  2nd  the  squadron  suffered  a  serious  loss. 
The  Clan  Macnaughton,  on  the  extreme  end  of  the  Western 
Patrol,  foundered  in  lat.  58°  47'  N.,  long.  9°  27'  W.  with 
all  hands.  She  was  unable  to  signal  any  call  for  help. 
Such  a  call,  however,  would  have  been  of  little  use,  as  all 
the  ships  that  night  on  patrol  were  doing  their  best  to  look 
after  themselves.  The}'^  were  having  a  most  trying  experi- 
ence, as  all  lights  sighted,  even  in  the  worst  weather,  had  to 
be  investigated  and  kept  in  sight  till  the  weather  moderated 
sufficiently  to  enable  signals  to  be  made.  This  was  often 
difficult,  especially  in  the  case  of  sailing-ships  driving 
before  the  gale  under  bare  poles,  and  it  is  feared  that  in 
some  such  endeavour  the  Clan  Macnaughton  may  have 
gone  down.  Two  ships  searched  for  three  days  in  the 
vicinity,  but  no  trace  of  life  or  wreckage  was  found. 

About  this  time  the  Admiralty  withdrew  the  Calyx 
and  Esquimo  from  the  squadron  owing  to  the  unfavourable 
reports  which  had  been  made  upon  them  by  the  Rear- 
Admiral  commanding.  They  were  old  boats  of  slow 
speed.  The  Admiralty  were  requested  to  requisition  six 
more  large  ships  for  duty  with  the  squadron  in  view  of  the 
stream  of  traffic  through  the  patrol  areas.  On  March  26th 
no  fewer  than  eleven  steamers  were  intercepted,  of  which 

CH.  v]  AN  ANXIOUS   TIME  121 

it  was  considered  necessary  to  send  seven  into  Kirkwall 
with  prize  crews.  Day  by  day  incidents  proved  that  the 
eighteen  ships  which  now  constituted  the  squadron  were 
inadequate  for  the  work  which  had  to  be  done.  The  bad 
weather  at  this  period  added  to  the  difficulties.  "  The 
weather  became  very  bad  and  prevented  boarding  in  the 
open  sea,"  Admiral  de  Chair  reported  on  April  3rd,  "  but 
by  taking  ships  under  the  lee  of  the  nearest  land,  prize 
crews  were  put  on  board  where  required,  and  all  vessels 
intercepted  were  dealt  with.  In  some  cases  it  was  neces- 
sary to  turn  an  intercepted  vessel  over  from  one  ship 
to  another  of  the  patrol,  as  no  more  prize  crews  could  be 
spared  from  the  first  ship's  company.  The  Patia  had 
six  prize  crews  away.  In  all  twenty-one  prize  crews 
were  away  from  the  squadron." 

On  rejoining  the  squadron  after  recoaling,  the  Colum- 
hella  reported  that  the  heavy  seas  experienced  on  the 
previous  night  had  carried  away  her  gun-shelter,  and  had 
put  out  of  action  the  ammunition  supply  and  communica- 
tions on  the  forecastle.  The  Ambrose,  which  had  left 
Liverpool  to  rejoin  the  patrol,  was  for  a  time  the  cause 
of  considerable  anxiety  at  this  time,  but  it  was  after- 
wards found  that  she  had  had  to  put  into  Belfast  on 
account  of  heavy  weather.  These  conditions  led  to  a 
collision  between  the  Patia  and  a  Norwegian  steamer 
during  boarding  operations,  a  plate  of  the  British  ship 
being  started  and  a  frame  bent.  To  add  to  the  troubles 
of  the  Admiral,  news  was  received  on  April  17th  that  the 
Virginian  had  run  ashore  in  the  Clyde,  opposite  Govan 
Ferry,  blocking  the  river  and  delaying  the  Oropesa  on 
her  way  back  to  the  patrol.  While  the  squadron  was 
contending  with  fierce  gales  in  the  more  southerly  waters 
in  which  the  patrol  was  being  maintained,  farther  north 
the  ships  were  seriously  embarrassed  by  the  drift  ice  ; 
as  late  as  the  end  of  May  floes  about  one  square  mile  in 
extent  separated  from  the  pack,  suggesting  that  the  ice 
was  about  to  break  up,  and  simultaneously  the  temperature 
of  the  water  rose  an  average  of  4°  F. 

In  the  meantime,  however,  the  squadron  had  been 
strengthened  by  the  six  additional  ships  which  the  Admir- 
alty had  agreed  to  allot  to  the  patrol  service.  These 
vessels  were  the  Alcantara,  the  Orcoma,  the  Andes,  the 
Arlanza,    the    India,    and    the    Ebro.     These    measures 

122         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND  BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

resulted  in  the  squadron  being  at  last  brought  up  to  the 
strength  which  it  had  originally  been  intended  should  be 

By  the  spring  of  1915 — before  the  loss  of  the  Viknor, 
Bayano,  and  Clan  Macnaughion — the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron  consisted  of  the  following  vessels,  particulars 
being  given  of  the  owners,  the  naval  officers  in  command, 
and  the  masters  who  were  retained  after  the  vessels  had 
been  requisitioned  by  the  Admiralty  : 



Captain  (R.N.) 
(in  Command). 

Masters  (B.N.E.). 


Royal  Mail  Steam 

Cdr.  T.  E.  Wardle 

Lt.-Cdr.       F.       M. 

Packet  Co. 



Allan  Line  Steam- 

Capt. G.  Trewby 

Cdr.  Edmund  Out- 

ship  Co. 



Booth    Steamship 

Cdr.    C.    W.    Bru- 

Lt.      Bernard     H. 


ton    (after    May 
1915  Cdr.  V.  L. 



Andes  . 

Pacific  Steam  Na- 

Cdr. C.  W.  Trous- 

Lt.    Richard     L. 

vigation  Co.,  Ltd. 

dale   (after  Jan. 
1916  Cdr.  C.  B, 



Royal  Mail  Steam 
Packet  Co. 

Capt.  D.  T.  Norris 

Lt.  C.  J.  Goble 


Elders    &    Fyffes, 

Cdr.  H.  C.  Carr 

Lt.   Bernard  Dun- 




Royal  Mail  Steam 

Cdr.  F.  H.  Walter 

Lt.-Cdr.    Chas.    H. 

Packet  Co. 

M.  Woods 

Cedric  . 

Oceanic  Steam  Na- 

Capt. R.  Benson 

Cdr.      James      0. 

vigation  Co. 



Elders    &    Fyfies, 

Cdr.    H.    Brockle- 

Lt.-Cdr.  Arthur  H. 




Clan  Mac- 

Clan  Line  (Irvine, 

Cdr.  R.  Jeffreys 

Lt.  George  J.  Wel- 


Cayzer  &  Co.) 


Columbella     . 

Anchor  Line  (Hen- 

Capt.    H.     Heard 

Lt.   Raymond    H. 

derson  Bros.) 

(after  July  1915 
Capt.   A.  Brom- 

A.  Dunn 

Digby   . 

Furness,  Withy  & 

Capt.  R.  F.  Mahon 

Lt.    Hamilton    M. 


(after  Oct.   1915 
Cdr.    A.  Warren 
and    after    Dec. 
1915  French  offi- 
cers and  crew) 


Ebro     . 

Royal  Mail  Steam 

Cdr.    E.    V.    Dug- 

Lt.  Leopold  G.  P. 

Packet  Co. 




Booth    Steamship 

Booth    Steamship 

Cdr.  Bather 

Lt.  Chas  M.  Wray. 

Hildebrand    . 

Capt.  H.  Edwards 

Lt.    Henry    P.    B. 


(after  Dec.  1915 
Capt.    J.    Grant 


CH.  V]     FOREIGN   OFFICE   BLOCKjVDE   POLICY        123 



Captain  (R.N.). 
(in  command). 

Masters  (R.N.R.). 

India    . 

P.    &    O.     Steam 

Cdr.   W.   G.   Ken- 

Lt.     Richard      G. 

Navigation  Co. 




P.     &     0.     Steam 

Capt.  C.  Tibbetts 

Capt.  Frederick  W. 

Navigation  Co. 



Elders    &    Fyffes, 

Capt.     V.     Philli- 

Lt.-Cdr.        Robert 


more  (after  Feb. 
1915     Capt.     J. 



Oceanic    Steam 
Navigation  Co. 

Capt.  W.  F.  Slater 

Cdr.  H.  Smith 


Pacific      Steam 

Cdr.  C.  W.  Bruton 

Lt.-Cdr.    John    A. 

Navigation  Co. 

(after  May  1915) 



Pacific      Steam 

Cdr.  N.  L.  Stanley 

Lt.    Frederick    W. 

Navigation  Co. 

(after  Dec.   1915 
French     officers 
and  crew) 



Royal  Mail  Steam 

Cdr.  G.  E.  Corbett 

Lt.     Reginald     S. 

Packet  Co. 


Otway  . 

Orient  Steam  Na- 

Capt. E.  L.  Booty 

Cdr.       Hugh       G. 

vigation  Co. 


Patia    . 

Elders    &   Fyffes, 

Capt.    G.    W.    Vi- 

Lt.-Cdr. Chas.  H. 


vian  (after  1914 
Cdr.  V.  L.  Bow- 


Patuca . 

Elders    &   Fyffes, 

Cdr.  C.  H.  France 

Lt.-Cdr.  Sidney  K. 


Hay  hurst    (after 
May    1915    Cdr. 
P.  G.  Brown  and 
after  Sept.  1915 
Cdr.     T.    Dann- 



Oceanic    Steam 

Capt.  H.  Chatter- 

Cdr.       Hugh      F. 

Navigation  Co. 

ton    (after    Oct. 
1915  Cdr.  A.  H. 




Allan  Line  Steam- 
ship Co. 

Cdr.  F.  H.  Walter 

Cdr.  E.  Cook 


The  Viking  Cruis- 

Cdr. E.  C.  Ballan- 

Lt.  W.  CM.  John- 

ing Co. 




Allan  Line  Steam- 

Cdr. H.   H.  Smith 

Cdr.         Alexander 

ship  Co, 


A  far  more  efficient  patrol  became  possible  as  a  result 
of  the  allocation  of  these  additional  ships  to  the  squadron. 
The  improvement  threw  into  prominence  the  divergence 
of  policy  between  the  naval  forces,  intent  only  upon  put- 
ting constriction  upon  the  enemy,  and  the  Foreign  Office, 
anxious  so  to  regulate  the  blockade  as  not  to  give  neutral 
states  justifiable  cause  of  dissatisfaction.  There  was 
something  to  be  said  from  both  points  of  view.  The 
action  of  the  Foreign  Office  was  the  subject  of  not  a  little 

124         MERCHANT  SEAMEN   AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

criticism  on  the  part  of  the  naval  authorities  at  Whitehall, 
as  well  as  by  officers  who  were  submitting  to  service  of 
unparalleled  hardship  only  to  see  diplomatic  action  rob- 
bing them  of  the  fruits  of  their  vigilance.  In  the  early 
months  of  the  year  1915  two  instances  occurred  which 
suggested  that  undue  leniency  was  being  exhibited  to 
neutral  vessels.  In  the  first  instance,  the  American 
s.s.  Greenbriar,  which  had  been  taken  into  Kirkwall  and 
then  released  by  superior  orders,  reached  Bremen,  where 
fourteen  Germans  were  taken  out  of  her  and  the  chief 
engineer,  an  Englishman,  promptly  imprisoned.  The 
American  papers  at  first  expressed  indignation  at  the  cap- 
ture of  this  ship,  but  they  speedily  changed  their  tone 
when  they  learnt  that  she  had  Germans  on  board  and  was 
full  of  contraband  cargo.  For  the  fourth  time  the  steamer 
Bergensfjord  was  intercepted,  and,  to  the  chagrin  of  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  was  again  released. 

On  May  10th  Rear-Admiral  de  Chair  steamed  towards 
Denmark  Strait  to  investigate  the  icefield  which  had 
been  reported  in  that  vicinity.  He  found  a  large  field 
of  closely  packed  ice  drifting  south-east.  The  edge  was 
traced  from  lat.  66°  48'  N.,  long.  16°  12'  W.,  to  lat.  68°  N., 
long.  13°  2'  W.  No  passage  could  be  discovered,  and  the 
captain  of  a  steamer  stated  that  no  vessels  were  passing 
to  the  north  of  Iceland,  news  which  was  not  unwelcome 
to  the  crews  of  the  ships  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron. 

As  the  summer  opened  the  menace  of  German  sub- 
marines steadily  increased,  and  from  time  to  time  the 
Admiral  commanding  had  considerably  to  vary  the  areas 
patrolled  in  order  to  reduce  the  chances  of  his  ships, 
offering  large  targets  for  attack,  being  sunk.  Conclusive 
evidence  of  the  dangers  which  had  to  be  incurred  was 
supplied  by  incidents  which  occurred  in  the  month  of 
June.  Submarines,  while  on  the  look-out  for  vessels  of 
the  patrol  themselves,  stopped  two  steamers  near  St.  Kilda. 
On  June  14th  the  Motagua,  while  boarding  the  British 
steamer  Goathland  in  lat.  58°  22'  N.,  long.  8°  15'  W., 
had  a  narrow  escape.  She  observed  an  unknown  steamer 
being  sunk  by  a  large  submarine.  She  at  once  pro- 
ceeded towards  the  distressed  vessel,  driving  the  submarine 
off  by  gunfire.  Her  arrival  was  too  late,  however,  to  save 
the  ship,  the  identity  of  which  was  then  unknown.  On 
the  same  day  the  India  was  attacked  in  lat.  59°  20'  N., 








CH.  v]  AN   EXAMINATION  125 

long.  7°  52'  W.  The  periscope  of  an  enemy  submarine 
was  sighted  right  aft  of  the  port  quarter.  After  discharg- 
ing a  torpedo,  which  just  missed  the  ship,  the  submarine 
dived,  and  the  India  completed  her  voyage  to  the  Clyde 
to  coal  in  safety.  At  this  period  submarines  were  also 
reported  three  miles  west  of  Rathlin  O'Beirne  Island,  off 
Barra  Head,  and  to  the  westward  of  Flannan  Island.  An 
illustration  of  the  services  which  patrols  were  rendering 
to  neutral  shipping  was  furnished  by  the  action  of  the 
Orotava.  On  June  15th  she  sighted  a  submarine  close  to 
the  Danish  steamer  Russ.  That  ship  was  stopped,  and  had 
her  boats  half  lowered,  as  if  she  were  about  to  abandon  ship. 
The  Orotava  promptly  went  to  her  rescue,  and  opening  fire 
on  the  submarine,  drove  the  enemy  away.  The  Danish 
vessel  was  then  escorted  to  a  place  of  safety,  the  Orotava 
screening  her  from  the  possibility  of  further  attack.  In 
consequence  of  the  activity  of  submarines,  a  change  had  to 
be  made  at  this  period  in  the  routes  given  for  British  and 
Allied  vessels  bound  for  Archangel  from  British  ports, 
it  being  considered  unsafe  for  them  to  pass  south  of 

As  the  summer  drew  on,  it  became  more  than  ever 
evident  that  large  sums  of  money  were  being  offered  to 
enterprising  skippers  to  go  through  the  blockade.  It  was 
rightly  assumed  that  some  would  endeavour  to  pass  well 
north  of  Iceland  into  the  Arctic  Circle,  making  the  extreme 
north  of  Norway  and  getting  south  inside  territorial  waters, 
and  consequently  the  Admiral  had  to  send  ships  to  watch 
these  waters.  As  a  further  complication  a  captured  ship 
stated  that  submarines  were  using  Jan  Mayen  Island 
(500  miles  north  of  Iceland)  as  a  base  for  attacking  the  ships 
of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  and  so  the  Alcantara 
went  round  the  island  and  landed  a  party  of  seamen  to 
investigate.  Nothing,  however,  was  found  except  some 
German  huts  and  three  black  fox  cubs,  which  were 
promptly  captured  and  brought  on  board  to  become  ships' 
pets  ;    but  they  did  not  live  long. 

On  June  17th  the  flagship  proceeded  to  the  eastward,  in 
order  to  get  into  touch  with  one  of  the  patrols  and  incident- 
ally to  intercept  the  Norwegian  steamer  Kristianiafjord, 
which  was  reported  to  have  left  Bergen  on  the  previous 
day.  The  Kristiajiiafjord  was  heard  signalling  with  Bergen 
early  in  the  morning  and  at  frequent  intervals  afterwards, 

126         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

so  orders  were  given  from  the  Alsatian  to  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron  to  stop  signaUing  by  wireless.  It  was 
noticed  that  the  Norwegian  vessel's  replies  to  Bergen 
were  very  short  and  made  quickly ;  this  rendered  it 
difficult  to  obtain  a  reading  by  the  direction-finder  which 
had  been  fitted  in  the  Alsatian.  It  was  also  observed 
that  the  strength  of  the  Kristianiajjord' s  signals  did  not 
alter  appreciably  throughout  the  day,  and  it  was  assumed 
that  this  stratagem  was  adopted  in  order  to  prevent  an 
estimate  of  her  movements  being  formed.  After  about 
five  hours,  during  which  the  Kristianiajjord  was  also 
working  with  the  wireless  of  another  Norwegian  ship, 
the  line  on  which  she  was  steaming  was  roughly  located 
by  means  of  the  direction-finder,  but  not  her  exact  position. 
At  9.45  p.m.,  however,  a  message  from  her  was  inter- 
cepted stating  that  she  was  370  miles  from  Bergen.  The 
Alsatian  then  recommenced  signalling  on  full  power,  and 
the  ships  on  patrol  in  the  vicinity  were  directed  to  make 
no  wireless  signals.  The  Norwegian  vessel  was  thus  given 
no  opportunity  of  locating  these  vessels  by  means  of  her 
direction-finders,  and  in  trying  to  avoid  the  Alsatian  she 
ran  into  the  other  ships  of  the  patrol.  As  a  result  of  this 
skilful  handling  of  the  situation,  the  Kristianiafjord,  with 
544  passengers  on  board,  was  intercepted  by  the  Mantua 
in  lat.  60°  42'  N.,  long.  11°  37'  W.,  at  10.30  a.m.  of 
June  18th,  and  was  sent  into  Stornoway  with  an  armed 
guard.  This  incident  furnished  an  interesting  illustration 
of  the  efficiency  of  the  patrol,  since  within  a  short  time  of 
the  Admiralty  telegram  being  received  to  stop  her,  the 
suspected  vessel  had  been  rounded  up  and  was  on  her 
way  to  port  for  examination. 

By  this  time  it  became  apparent  that  the  squadron 
was  in  need  of  a  more  convenient  base,  so  in  compliance 
with  a  signal  from  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Grand 
Fleet,  the  Admiral  proceeded  to  Swarbacks  Minn,  in  the 
Shetlands,  to  examine  that  anchorage  in  order  that  he  might 
judge  its  suitability  as  a  northern  base.  Sir  Dudley 
found  there  was  room  for  seven  of  his  cruisers  to  lie  at 
single  anchor,  and  while  there  he  was  able  to  carry  out 
a  practical  demonstration  of  the  value  of  its  central 
position.  At  noon  on  May  6th  he  received  a  report  that 
an  oil-tank  steamer  had  been  sighted  in  lat.  60°  30'  N., 
long.    4°  20'  W.,  steering    north-east,  having  apparently 

CH.  v]  A  NEW   BASE  127 

evaded  the  patrols.  Hastening  from  the  harbour  at  18 
knots,  the  Alsatian  captured  the  tanker  at  3.30  p.m.  on  the 
same  day,  and  sent  her  into  Kirkwall  with  a  prize  crew. 
A  plan  was  drawn  up  for  the  defence  of  Swarbacks  Minn,  and 
arrangements  were  made  with  representatives  of  the  Works 
and  Stores  Department,  who  joined  in  the  conference,  for 
coaling  and  watering  twenty-four  ships.  It  was  con- 
sidered necessary,  in  view  of  the  large  coal  consumption 
of  the  squadron  (1,600  tons  per  diem),  that  four  colliers 
should  always  be  available  for  immediate  use,  besides 
a  moored  coal-hulk  for  supplying  the  yachts  and  drifters 
which  had  been  associated  with  the  squadron,  as  well  as 
for  the  harbour  craft. 

The  question  of  water  supply  was  one  of  considerable 
difficulty.  It  w^as  estimated  that  150  tons  a  day  would 
be  necessary  for  refilling  the  boilers  of  the  visiting  ships. 
A  loch  above  the  whaling  station  in  Olna  Firth  was 
eventually  selected,  since  it  yielded  a  fair  drinking  water 
of  peaty  character  free  from  contamination,  and  arrange- 
ments were  made  for  laying  a  pipe-line  to  the  shore, 
whence  lighters  would  convey  it  to  the  ships.  The  old 
cruiser  Gibraltar  had  been  fitted  as  a  depot  and  repair 
ship  and  orders  were  given  that  she  should  be  stationed 
at  the  base,  moored  so  that  her  guns  could  defend  the 
boom  from  attack.  The  Admiralty  was  requested  to 
dispatch  from  200  to  300  firemen,  in  addition  to  her 
reduced  complement,  so  that  personnel  might  be  available 
to  assist  in  coaling  ships.  At  the  same  time  it  was  reported 
that  a  hospital  ship  and  a  frozen-meat  ship  would  be 
required  at  the  base,  and  it  was  urged  that,  as  a  precaution 
against  the  enemy  laying  mines  off  Swarbacks  Minn,  a 
couple  of  sweeping  trawlers  should  be  sent  northward  to 
keep  the  channel  open. 

As  the  month  of  June  drew  to  a  close,  two  incidents 
occurred  marking  the  difficulties  under  which  the  patrol 
was  carrying  out  its  duties.  On  June  21st  the  Alsatian 
intercepted  the  Norwegian  sailing-ship  Bessfield,  with 
wheat  from  South  America  for  Norway.  The  master 
reported  that  when  about  thirty  miles  from  Mizzen  Head, 
U34  stopped  the  ship  by  exploding  a  shell  above  her  deck, 
pieces  of  the  shell  falling  on  board.  The  German  officer 
ordered  the  Bessfield  not  to  call  at  any  British  port,  and 
the  master,  before  being  released,  was  given  written  orders 


128         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

not  to  call  at  any  British  port  but  to  proceed  direct  to 
Bergen,  it  being  added  that  if  he  was  found  off  his  course 
he  would  be  shot.  The  Alsatian  nevertheless  sent  the  vessel 
into  Lerwick. 

On  the  following  day,  when  the  Teutonic  was  off  the 
Norwegian  coast,  she  sighted  the  German  steamer  Konsul 
Schulize,  at  a  distance  of  thirteen  miles.  The  vessel 
was  off  Kya  Island.  The  Teutonic  immediately  gave 
chase  and  drew  in  to  eight  miles,  still  outside  gun 
range.  The  German  vessel  then  altered  course  and  ran 
for  territorial  waters  to  the  north-east  of  the  island. 
On  learning  what  had  happened,  Admiral  de  Chair  directed 
the  Teutonic  to  keep  the  German  ship  in  sight,  and  to  call 
up  the  Victorian  to  watch  the  other  side  of  the  island. 
Later  the  Teutonic  reported  to  the  Admiral  that  the 
Konsul  Schultze  had  proceeded  in  a  north-easterly  direc- 
tion towards  Folden  Fjord.  A  report  was  at  once  made 
to  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Grand  Fleet,  and  the 
Teutonic  was  ordered  to  patrol  about  lat.  64°  22'  N., 
long.  9°  34'  E.,  with  the  Victorian  in  support  of  her  to  try 
and  get  the  steamer  to  come  out.  If  a  submarine  had  been 
available  this  German  ship  would  probably  have  been 
captured.  The  watch  was  maintained  throughout  the 
following  day,  but  the  German  vessel  was  not  again 
sighted,  and  it  was  afterwards  ascertained  she  had  gone 
into  Trondhjem. 

German  submarines  in  the  meantime  were  actively 
engaged  intercepting  ships  off  the  Butt  of  Lewis,  sinking 
many  of  them  without  warning.  The  enemy's  success 
did  not  pass  unnoticed,  and  on  June  25th  Admiral  de 
Chair  learnt  that  an  "  E  "  class  submarine  had  been 
directed  to  cruise  off  Stadlandet,  thus  supplying  a  long- 
felt  want.  At  this  period  a  number  of  German  steamers 
were  being  sighted  in  territorial  waters,  to  the  chagrin 
of  the  officers  and  men  of  the  patrolling  ships.  What- 
ever the  patrol  lacked  in  efficient  constriction  on  the 
enemy  was  certainly  not  due  to  want  of  vigilance  on  the 
part  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron.  During  the  six  months 
which  had  intervened  since  December  1914,  the  distance 
covered  by  the  flagship  had  been  35,738  miles,  the  expendi- 
ture of  coal  and  water  amounting  to  20,796  tons  and 
13,382  tons  respectively.  The  figures  of  the  flagship 
were  typical  of  all  the  other  ships  of  the  squadron,  and  a 


current  estimate  put  the  annual  consumption  of  coal  of 
the  twenty-four  ships  at  598,000  tons.  During  the  week 
ending  June  26th  no  fewer  than  seventy-one  vessels  were 
intercepted  and  examined,  fourteen  of  them  being  sent 
into  port  with  armed  guards. 

The  month  of  July  opened  with  an  accident  to  the 
PaUica,  which  served  as  a  reminder  of  the  hazardous 
character  of  the  work  which  the  vessels  of  the  patrol  were 
carrying  out.  Orders  had  been  received  from  the  Admir- 
alty that  the  Swedish  steamer  Oscar  II,  on  passage  from 
Buenos  Aires  to  Christiania  with  a  cargo  of  coffee,  hides, 
etc.,  should  be  sent  into  port  if  she  was  met  with.  The 
Patuca  fell  in  with  this  vessel  early  on  the  morning  of 
July  1st,  with  disastrous  results.  The  Oscar  II  struck  the 
Patuca  on  the  starboard  bow,  crushing  her  own  bow,  and 
then,  rubbing  alongside,  she  was  holed  in  the  engine-room 
by  the  patrol  ship's  propeller.  Some  plates  of  the  Patuca 
were  injured,  and  the  flange  of  her  propeller  was  badly 
bent,  but  collision  mats  were  requisitioned,  and  by  shoring 
up  her  side  and  filling  in  the  spaces  between  the  damaged 
plates  with  cement,  she  was  made  sufficiently  seaworthy 
to  proceed  to  the  Clyde  at  14  knots. 

The  damage  sustained  by  the  Swedish  ship  was  more 
serious,  and  she  started  making  water  badly.  The  engine- 
room  filled,  putting  out  the  fires,  and  the  crew  abandoned 
her  and  went  on  board  the  Patuca.  The  Admiral  com- 
manding immediately  ordered  the  Columbella  and  Digby  to 
the  scene  of  the  accident,  and  the  Royal  Scot  was  detached 
to  tow  the  Oscar  II  to  Stornoway.  The  Commander-in- 
Chief  of  the  Grand  Fleet,  on  receiving  intelligence  of  the 
mishap,  announced  that  destroyers  would  be  in  readiness 
off  the  Butt  of  Lewis.  The  Royal  Scot  took  the  injured 
vessel  in  tow,  the  Digby  acting  as  escort.  At  1  p.m.  the 
Digby  reported  that  the  upper  deck  of  the  Swedish  vessel 
was  awash,  and  that  the  tow  had  parted.  Three  hours 
later  the  Royal  Scot  had  the  steamer  again  in  tow,  but 
the  voyage  promised  to  be  a  long  lone,  as  no  higher  speed 
than  4  knots  could  be  made. 

Early  the  following  morning  the  Digby  reported  that 
another  towing  hawser  had  given  out  and  that  the  wind 
and  sea  were  rising.  The  tug  Plover  was  forthwith 
dispatched  from  Stornoway  to  go  to  the  assistance  of  the 
Oscar  II,  but  failed  to  locate  her.     Shortly  before  noon 

130         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE    [cii.  v 

the  Royal  Scot  was  still  struggling  with  her  burden,  making 
about  3|  knots.  Subsequently,  OAving  to  the  condition 
of  the  damaged  ship,  all  hands  had  to  leave  her.  At 
1.30  p.m.  the  tow  again  parted,  but  was  once  more  picked 
up  by  the  Royal  Scot.  By  this  time  the  destroyers  Staunch 
and  Fury  had  joined  the  escort.  At  5  o'clock  that  afternoon 
the  towing  operations  had  to  be  suspended,  and  an  hour 
later  the  tow  once  more  parted.  At  8.35  p.m.  the  Digby 
reported  that  she  was  experiencing  great  difficulty  in  towing 
as  all  the  wires  had  gone  except  that  attached  to  the  cable 
of  the  derelict,  adding  that  there  was  no  steam  or  hand 
gear  on  her  capstan.  Early  the  following  morning  the 
Oscar  II,  though  completely  water-logged,  was  still  in 
tow  of  the  Royal  Scot.  At  6  a.m.  the  ships  reached 
lat.  59°  11'  N.,  long.  7°  42'  W.,  when  steering  became 
difficult  through  the  yawing  of  the  derelict.  At  9  a.m. 
the  tow  again  parted,  the  bollards  having  drawn  and  the 
wires  gone,  and  as  further  towing  by  the  Royal  Scot  was 
impracticable,  that  ship  was  sent  to  Stornoway  to  fill  up 
with  water.  The  Digby,  assisted  by  the  Fury,  then 
attempted  to  pick  up  the  tow,  but  unsuccessfully.  By 
this  time  the  Oscar  II  had  developed  a  list  of  40  degrees 
and  the  seas  were  sweeping  over  her.  At  7  p.m.  she  sank, 
and  the  Digby  then  returned  to  her  patrol  and  the  Royal 
Scot  went  to  Scapa  Flow. 

The  incident  is  of  interest  as  a  reflection  of  the  devotion 
to  duty  exhibited  by  the  officers  and  men  of  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron  in  carrying  out  the  patrol  with  a  deter- 
mination to  inflict  as  little  inconvenience  and  loss  on 
neutrals  as  possible.  They  were  tireless  in  adapting 
their  procedure  to  circumstances.  In  contrast  with  the 
efforts  made  to  save  the  Oscar  II  is  the  record  of  the 
prompt  measures  adopted  on  July  8th  in  the  case  of  the 
German  Friedrich  Arp.  The  Tenby  Castle,  one  of  the 
armed  trawlers  attached  to  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron, 
sighted  the  enemy  ship,  outward  bound  from  Stettin  to 
Narvik  with  a  cargo  of  magnetic  ore,  off  the  Norwegian 
coast.  The  Tenby  Castle  fired  a  shot  across  her  bow  and 
ordered  her  to  steer  S.W.  by  W.  The  master  refused  to 
obey  and  steamed  towards  the  land.  The  trawler  then 
fired  a  shot  into  the  steamer's  stern.  She  stopped,  but 
still  refused  to  steer  as  directed.  The  trawler  then  gave 
warning  that  she  would  be  sunk  unless  she  obeyed  orders. 

CH.  v]  AN   ARMED    GUARD   DISGUISED  131 

Again  she  made  for  the  shore.  ReaHsing  that  decisive 
measures  were  necessary,  the  Tenby  Castle  fired  sixteen 
rounds  into  her  starboard  quarter,  and  she  sank  in  lat. 
67°  47'  N.,  long.  14°  15'  E.  The  crew,  as  well  as  the  pilot, 
were  rescued  and  transferred  to  the  India.  At  this  period 
there  was  a  further  marked  recrudescence  of  submarine 
activity,  but  nevertheless  in  the  week  ending  July  24th 
115  vessels  were  intercepted,  of  which  17  were  sent  into 
port  with  armed  guards. 

The  closing  days  of  the  month  provided  an  incident 
which  proved  at  once  the  activity  of  the  enemy  and  the 
stratagem  to  which  resort  was  had  in  defeating  him. 
On  July  29th  information  was  received  of  the  sinking 
of  the  Norwegian  steamer  Trondhjemsfjord  in  lat.  61°  30'  N., 
long.  3°  42'  W.,  by  a  German  submarine  on  July  26th. 
This  vessel  was  proceeding  to  Kirkwall  in  charge  of  an 
armed  guard  from  the  Hildebrand,  when  she  was  fired  at 
by  the  submarine,  the  shot  passing  over  the  bows.  The 
master  altered  course  to  bring  the  submarine  astern  and 
proceeded  at  full  speed.  After  a  chase  of  half  an  hour, 
the  submarine  fired  a  second  shot  and  the  Trondhjemsfjord, 
which  was  being  rapidly  overhauled,  stopped.  The  master 
was  ordered  on  board  the  submarine  with  the  ship's 
papers,  but  before  leaving  he  arranged  for  the  disguise 
of  the  armed  guard,  his  wife,  who  was  on  board,  providing 
the  oflicer  (Lieutenant  Crawford,  R.N.R.)  with  some  of 
her  husband's  clothes  in  place  of  his  own,  which  she  packed 
with  her  own  effects  for  removal.  The  rifles,  etc.,  belong- 
ing to  the  guard  were  concealed  in  the  fore  peak.  Soon 
after  the  master  got  on  board  the  submarine  the  crew 
of  the  Trondhjemsfjord  were  directed  to  abandon  ship 
immediately.  When  all  the  boats  were  clear  of  the  ship 
the  submarine  fired  a  torpedo  amidships  from  a  dis- 
tance of  about  130  yards,  and  the  Trondhjemsfjord  listed 
heavily  to  port.  Amongst  other  cargo  this  steamer  was 
carrying  a  large  quantity  of  sulphuric  acid,  which  burst 
with  a  loud  explosion  and  flew  to  the  height  of  the 
mastheads  on  the  ship  being  hit  by  the  torpedo.  After 
the  vessel  had  sunk,  the  submarine  towed  the  crew 
and  armed  guard  in  their  boats  about  four  miles  to 
the  southward,  where  the  Norwegian  barque  Glance  was 
met  with  and  ordered  by  the  German  officer  to  embark 
them.     The    submarine    was    of   the    latest    type,    being 

182         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

about  200  feet  long,  with  two  masts,  fitted  with  wireless, 
and  was  armed  with  a  12-pounder  gun  forward  and  a 
6-pounder  gun  aft.  The  hull  was  grey,  and  her  number 
was  painted  out.  Her  commander  was  a  young  man 
about  twenty-five,  who  treated  the  master  of  the  Nor- 
wegian steamer  with  courtesy.  He  explained  that  his 
chief  reason  for  sinking  the  Trondhjemsfjord  was  that  she 
was  an  English  steamer  bought  by  a  Norwegian  Company 
since  the  commencement  of  hostilities.  He  also  said 
that  he  was  looking  for  the  Drammenfjord,  which  he  was 
instructed  to  sink  on  account  of  her  British  origin.  The 
master  of  the  Trondhjemsfjord  (Captain  Bang)  and  his 
wife  appear  to  have  behaved  in  a  most  circumspect  manner 
throughout.  Whilst  on  board  the  submarine,  the  former 
denied  that  he  had  an  armed  guard  on  board  his  ship 
or  that  he  had  been  boarded  by  a  British  patrol  vessel. 
The  crew  and  armed  guard  were  first  transferred  to  the 
Swedish  steamer  Orlando,  bound  for  Sweden,  and  the 
armed  guard  eventually  reached  Thurso  in  the  trawler 
Princess  Juliana,  the  master  and  crew  of  the  Trond- 
hjemsfjord remained  in  the  Orlando. 

While  practical  experience  of  war  conditions  in  the  block- 
ading areas  had  shown  the  necessity  for  an  alteration  in 
the  types  of  vessels  employed,  it  had  to  be  remembered 
that  throughout  the  whole  of  the  Empire's  sea  service 
unprecedented  conditions  were  bringing  about  almost 
daily  changes  in  the  sphere  of  scientific  equipment.  From 
these  experiments  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  was  not 
exempt,  and  an  interesting  little  note  of  the  Admiral  in 
command,  under  the  date  of  August  21st,  1915,^  reveals 
that  his  flagship,  the  Alsatian,  had  been  fitted  up  during 
July  with  a  new  wireless  telegraph  direction-finder, 
designed  by  the  National  Physical  Laboratory.  Trials 
were  to  be  given  to  this,  and  a  later  note,  of  September  7th, 
shows  that  during  a  thick  fog,  in  which  the  Hildebrand 
and  Teutonic  were  to  be  met  at  a  prearranged  rendezvous, 
the  new  direction-finder  proved  very  useful  in  determining 
their  position.  It  is  a  matter  of  no  great  historical  import- 
ance, but  it  is  a  vivid  indication  that,  pressed  as  they  were 
by  circumstances,   the  scientific  spirit  of  the  officers  of 

^  At  this  period  of  1915  the  Alsatian  reported  that  she  had  experienced 
nearly  twelve  complete  days  of  continuous  fog  and  mist  when  on  patrol 
to  the  south  of  Iceland. 


the  new  navy,  as  well  as  the  old  navy,  was  as  alive  in  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  as  in  any  other  division  of  the 
naval  and  mercantile  services. 

On  July  19th,  1915,  the  flagship  Alsatian,  after  coal- 
ing and  repairing  at  Liverpool,  proceeded  to  rejoin  the 
squadron,  which  had  by  this  time  been  welded  into  a 
thoroughly  efficient  blockading  force.  During  the  later 
part  of  this  month  enemy  submarines  in  these  southern 
seas  had  become  very  active ;  the  Columbella  was 
attacked  on  the  22nd  in  lat.  60°  26'  N.,  long.  4°  42'  W., 
but  the  enemy  was  avoided  ;  this  submarine  craft,  after 
making  the  attack,  dived  and  came  up  again  five  miles 
astern,  whether  or  not  with  the  idea  of  attacking  a  Danish 
schooner  in  the  vicinity  was  uncertain.  At  any  rate, 
both  the  British  patrol  steamer  and  the  Danish  vessel 
escaped.  On  the  same  day,  however,  a  trawler  and  a 
Russian  collier  were  sunk,  and  the  French  ship  Dance 
on  the  23rd  by  one  of  the  submarines  operating  in  lat. 
59°  15'  N.,  long.  7°  20'  W.  On  July  26th  the  Teutonic 
reported  that  she  had  intercepted  the  Norwegian  steamer 
Bianca,  which  had  also  been  stopped  by  a  German  sub- 
marine carrying  two  guns,  twenty-five  miles  N.W. 
by  W.  from  Foula  Island  ;  the  British  steamer  Grange- 
wood,  which  had  been  intercepted  by  the  Patuca  on  the 
24th,  was  also  destroyed  twenty  miles  east-north-east 
from  Muckle  Flugga  in  the  Shetlands. 

The  Germans  were  evidently  studying  with  jealous 
eye  the  success  with  which  the  blockade  was  being  main- 
tained, and  the  goodwill  by  which  it  was  regarded  by  many 
neutral  seamen.  "  Ruthlessness  "  was  the  German 
watchword.  An  indication  of  the  enemy's  counteraction 
was  furnished  towards  the  end  of  July,  when  the  Nor- 
wegian steamer  Fimreite,  with  an  armed  guard  on  board 
(furnished  by  the  patrol  ship  Motagua),  was  torpedoed. 
At  4.14  a.m.  on  the  23rd,  when  about  lat.  60°  15'  N.,  long. 
8°  45'  W.,  a  submarine  was  sighted  on  the  port  bow 
making  for  the  Fimreite  at  high  speed.  She  fired  a  gun 
and  ordered  the  steamer  to  stop  and  send  a  boat.  While 
the  master  was  on  board  the  submarine,  the  officer  in 
charge  of  the  armed  guard  (Mr.  P.  B.  Clarke,  Midshipman 
R.N.R.)  ordered  his  men  to  take  off  their  uniforms  and 
help  to  put  the  boats  out. 

On  his  return  to  the  ship  the  master  of  the  Fimreite 

134         MERCHANT  SEAMEN   AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

stated  that  he  had  been  questioned  as  to  his  destina- 
tion, and  had  given  it  as  Hull ;  asked  if  he  were  going 
direct,  he  had  replied  "  via  Kirkwall."  Pie  was  then 
asked  if  he  had  a  prize  crew  aboard,  and  answered, 
"  Yes  ;  one  officer  and  four  soldiers."  The  Germans  told 
him  they  would  sink  him  for  trading  with  the  English,  and 
told  him  not  to  let  the  Englishmen  get  into  the  boats, 
as  they  w^ere  to  sink  with  the  ship.  The  officer  of  the 
guard,  thinking  the  Germans  might  search  the  boats, 
ordered  his  men  to  remove  every  scrap  of  uniform  and  to 
disguise  themselves  as  much  as  possible,  taking  their 
revolvers  in  their  pockets.  As  soon  as  the  boats  were 
clear  of  the  ship,  the  submarine  opened  fire  on  her  with 
what  looked  like  a  6-  or  12-pounder  gun.  She  fired  about 
fifteen  projectiles,  one  of  which  struck  the  boilers,  and  the 
Fimreite  sank  bow  first.  There  were  twenty-nine  men  seen 
on  board  the  submarine  watching  the  shooting,  most  of 
them  dressed  in  duffle  suits.  The  submarine  had  one 
mast  amidships  and  a  black  patch  forward  where  her 
number  had  probably  been  painted  out.  After  sinking 
the  Fimreite,  she  dived,  heading  in  a  westerly  direction. 
The  crew  and  guard  were  in  the  boats  from  4.45  a.m.  till 
3.30  p.m.,  when  they  were  picked  up  by  the  Norwegian 
barque  Springband,  which  transferred  them  to  the  Caliban 
for  passage  to  Stornoway. 

The  work  of  the  patrol  was  now  in  full  swing :  the 
organisation,  considering  the  novelty  of  the  conditions, 
the  seas  in  which  operations  were  being  carried  out,  and 
the  complications  provided  by  the  German  submarines, 
was  working  smoothly.  Some  idea  of  the  amount  of  work 
being  done  at  this  period  may  be  gathered  from  the  fact 
that  during  the  last  week  of  July  sixty-nine  ships  were 
intercepted  and  examined,  twelve  of  them  being  sent 
into  port  with  armed  guards,  while  during  the  first  week 
of  August  sixty-four  vessels  were  intercepted,  the  same 
number  as  before  being  sent  into  port. 

The  most  memorable  incident,  perhaps,  of  this  month 
was  the  disaster  which  overtook  the  India  while  on  patrol 
duty  off  the  Norwegian  coast  some  six  or  seven  miles 
north-north-west  from  Heligver  Light  on  the  afternoon  of 
August  8th.  On  the  morning  of  this  day  the  s.s.  Gloria,  a 
Swedish  ship,  had  been  sighted  by  the  India  to  the  north- 
ward, accompanied  by  two  armed  trawlers,  the  Saxon  and 

CH.  v]  THE  "  INDIA  "   TORPEDOED  135 

the  Newland.  The  Indians  course  was  altered  to  meet  them, 
and  an  officer  went  on  board  to  examine  the  Swedish  vessel. 
A  search  lasting  about  one  and  a  half  hours  was  made.  The 
Gloria  was  allowed  to  proceed  at  about  10  a.m.,  a  report 
upon  her  cargo  being  made  by  wireless  to  the  senior 
officer  of  the  patrol  in  the  Virginian.  The  India  then 
altered  her  course  to  the  south-west,  at  a  speed  of  14  knots, 
zigzagging  according  to  orders,  and  at  11  a.m.  sighted 
another  ship  making  for  Taen  Island.  As  she  was  inside 
the  three-mile  territorial  limit,  the  officer  in  charge  of 
the  India,  Commander  W.  G.  A.  Kennedy,  R.N.,  closed 
her  and  followed  her  to  the  northward  for  purposes  of 
identification.  This  again  took  the  India  several  miles 
north  of  her  patrol  line  into  the  West  Fjord.  The  vessel 
proved  to  be  a  Swedish  steamship,  Atland.  Once  more 
course  was  altered  for  the  patrol  line,  and  at  about  noon 
an  urgent  wireless  message  was  received  from  the  Vir- 
ginian ordering  Commander  Kennedy  to  send  the  Swedish 
ship  Gloria  into  Kirkwall.  Once  more,  therefore,  he  had 
to  alter  course,  increasing  his  speed  to  16|  knots,  with  the 
hope  of  again  intercepting  this  vessel.  At  2  p.m.,  how- 
ever, he  had  seen  nothing  of  her,  and  being  then  well  to 
the  north  of  his  patrol  line,  he  again  turned  south,  and 
zigzagged  at  a  speed  of  14  knots.  An  hour  later  a 
steamer  was  observed  inshore,  just  to  the  northward  of 
Taen  Island,  and  the  India  altered  her  course  so  as  to 
intercept  her,  coming  up  with  her  about  4  p.m.  Being 
just  inside  the  territorial  limit.  Commander  Kennedy 
could  not  interfere  with  her,  but  on  signalling  she  replied 
that  she  was  the  s.s.  Hillhouse,  bound  from  South  Shields 
to  Archangel  in  ballast,  and  she  hoisted  the  Red  Ensign. 
As  she  had  no  name  visible  anywhere,  Commander  Ken- 
nedy considered  her  to  be  very  suspicious,  but  was  obliged 
to  leave  her  alone.  Yet  again,  therefore,  having  sighted 
and  signalled  the  armed  trawler  Saxon,  he  altered  his  course 
back  to  the  centre  of  the  patrol  line,  soon  afterwards 
perceiving  another  steamer  making  towards  Taen  Island. 

Course  was  again  altered  in  order  to  try  to  intercept  the 
new-comer,  and  Commander  Kennedy  then  left  the  bridge 
for  a  few  minutes  to  go  to  the  wireless  house,  passing 
thence  to  the  hurricane  deck.  Within  a  few  minutes  the 
alarm  gong  sounded,  and  returning  to  the  bridge  he  saw 
the  track  of  a  torpedo  approaching  the  India  from  an 

136         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCI^DE     [ch.  v 

angle  of  about  80  degrees  on  the  starboard  bow.  Orders 
were  given  "  Full  speed  ahead  "  and  "  Hard  aport."  Com- 
mander Kennedy  hoped  that  the  torpedo  had  safely 
passed  under  the  ship,  as  her  track  had  reached  the  vessel's 
side  before  the  explosion.  Unfortunately  this  was  not  the 
case,  the  India  being  struck  on  the  starboard  side  between 
the  after  companion-way  and  the  after  gun  on  the  star- 
board side. 

The  great  vessel  at  once  began  to  settle  by  the  stern, 
and  the  order  was  given  to  abandon  ship.  Seven  of 
the  ship's  lifeboats — four  on  the  starboard  and  three  on 
the  port  side — had  been  kept  lowered  in  view  of  such 
an  eventuality,  and  though  six  of  them  were  fully  and 
successfully  manned,  one  of  the  port  boats  capsized, 
owing  to  a  great  deal  of  way  being  still  on  the  ship.  The 
starboard  boats  were  being  thrown  into  hopeless  con- 
fusion, owing  to  the  first  lifeboat's  foremost  fall  freeing 
itself  and  causing  her  to  swing  round  and  foul  the  third  life- 
boat and  first  whaler  ;  the  first  cutter  was,  it  was  believed, 
stove  in  against  the  ship's  side  whilst  being  lowered. 
"  I  very  much  regret,"  Commander  Kennedy  reported, 
"  that  all  the  efforts  which  were  made  to  save  life  by  means 
of  the  boats  actually  caused  the  great  loss  of  life."  Of 
the  number  saved,  namely  189  officers  and  men,  no  less 
than  19  officers  and  138  men  had  all  dived  into  the  sea, 
or  gone  down  with  the  ship.  As  the  vessel  sank  in  less 
than  five  minutes  after  the  explosion,  all  efforts  to  get 
the  rafts  out  were  unavailing.  Commander  Kennedy  went 
down  with  his  ship,  and  eventually  floated  up  amongst 
the  wreckage.  Throughout  the  trying  ordeal,  discipline 
was  splendidly  maintained.  "  I  wish  to  place  on  record," 
Commander  Kennedy  stated  in  his  report,  "  my  admiration 
of  the  magnificent  behaviour  of  the  officers  and  men ; 
notwithstanding  the  appalling  swiftness  of  the  catas- 
trophe, the  most  perfect  discipline  prevailed  until  the  end." 
The  survivors  were  subsequently  picked  up  by  the  Swedish 
steamer  Gotaland  and  the  armed  trawler  Saxon,  and  were 
landed  in  Norway  ;  they  were  removed  to  an  internment 
camp  at  Jorstadmoen.  The  total  number  of  lives  lost 
was  9  officers  and  107  men. 

Meanwhile  the  work  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron, 
temporarily  short  of  three  of  its  units,  continued  to 
increase,  in  face  of  great  submarine  activity  on  the  part 

CH.  v]  THE   NEW   BASE  DEVELOPED  137 

of  the  enemy,  which  necessitated  frequent  variations  of 
the  patrolHng.  During  the  first  week  of  September  1915, 
no  less  than  eighty-nine  vessels  were  intercepted  and 
examined,  fourteen  being  sent  into  port  with  armed 
guards.  The  development  of  the  new  base  at  Swar- 
backs  Minn  became  a  matter  of  the  first  importance  in 
view  of  the  role  which  the  squadron  M^as  filling.  On 
September  9th  Admiral  de  Chair  accordingly  landed  to 
inspect,  in  company  with  Rear-Admiral  Fawckner,  the 
progress  of  its  coaling  and  watering  plant  and  other  local 
arrangements.  He  found  that  the  rate  of  coaling  had 
increased  with  experience  and  was  now  averaging  from 
50  to  60  tons  per  hour,  while  a  plentiful  supply  of  boiler 
water  was  procurable.  Ships  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron  were  being  sent  in  to  coal  singly,  taking  about 
1,000  tons  each,  but  the  resources  of  the  base  were  being  so 
developed  as  to  allow,  it  was  hoped,  of  several  ships 
being  coaled  simultaneously.  A  further  technical  improve- 
ment had  also  been  brought  about  by  the  fitting  of  a 
second  look-out  crow's-nest  on  the  foremast  of  all  ships 
of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron.  This,  being  placed  well 
above  the  height  of  the  funnels,  gave  them  a  very  good 
range  of  vision,  and  ensured  that  other  ships  could  be 
sighted  before  the  patrol  vessels  were  themselves  seen. 
Ships  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  had  thus  become 
readily  recognisable  by  the  two  crows'-nests  on  their  funnels. 
Great  trouble  was  now  being  experienced  through  fog 
in  these  far  northern  seas,  and  this  resulted,  on  September 
11th,  in  an  unfortunate  collision  between  two  vessels  of 
the  patrol,  the  Patia  and  the  Oropesa,  both  of  which  had, 
in  consequence,  to  be  sent  into  the  Clyde  for  repairs  ; 
the  Patia  was  attacked  en  route  by  a  submarine,  happily 
without  injury.  The  Patia  adventure  was  a  curious  one. 
The  injury  suffered  by  the  vessel's  stern  had  been  so 
considerable  that  the  water  rose  to  the  collision  bulkhead. 
The  bulkhead  was  shored  up  and  the  ballast  shifted  aft, 
so  as  to  bring  her  bow  up,  and  the  captain  decided  to 
steam  stern  first,  with  the  Ebro  as  escort.  In  these 
circumstances  slow  progress  was  made,  so  Rear-Admiral 
de  Chair  submitted  to  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the 
Grand  Fleet  that  assistance  should  be  sent.  The  sug- 
gestion was  adopted,  the  Patia  being  ordered  to  proceed 
to  East  Loch  Roag,  in  the  Hebrides.    Early  on  the  morn- 

138         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

ing  of  the  following  day — September  ISth — the  Ehro 
reported  that  she  had  sighted  a  submarine  in  lat.  58°  5'  N., 
long.  10°  5'  W.,  steering  north.  From  later  reports  from 
this  vessel  and  the  Patia,  it  appeared  that  they  had  both 
observed  the  lights  of  a  supposed  steamer,  which  the 
Ebro  went  to  investigate.  It  was  very  dark.  The  chase 
proved  to  be  a  submarine,  but  her  identity  was  not  estab- 
lished until  the  Ebro  was  so  close  that  she  could  not  depress 
her  guns  sufficiently  to  fire,  when  the  submarine  dived. 
After  a  short  interval  she  rose  again  and  showed  a  light. 
The  Ebro  attempted  to  ram  her,  but  she  had  disappeared 
when  the  ship  arrived  on  the  spot.  Meanwhile  the  Patia, 
which  had  hitherto  been  proceeding  stern  first  at  3  knots, 
reversed  her  engines  and  went  ahead  at  12  to  13  knots  to 
clear  the  dangerous  area.  At  6.30  a.m.  she  reported 
that  she  was  proceeding  east  at  13  knots  and  that  her 
shored-up  bulkhead  was  intact,  collision  mats  in  place, 
and  200  tons  of  ballast  shifted  aft.  In  view  of  these 
favourable  conditions,  she  requested  permission  to  pro- 
ceed direct  to  the  Clyde,  instead  of  putting  into  East  Loch 
Roag,  and,  this  course  havang  been  approved  by  the 
Commander-in-Chief,  she  changed  course  to  the  south 
with  the  Ebro  in  company. 

In  spite  of  fog  and  the  bad  weather  which  continued 
almost  without  intermission  throughout  the  month,  the 
work  of  the  patrol  went  forward  ;  51  vessels  were  inter- 
cepted during  this  week,  9  of  them  being  sent  into  port 
with  armed  guards  ;  while  during  the  following  week  these 
numbers  increased  again  to  77  and  14  respectively,  and 
on  the  last  day  of  the  month  no  less  than  8  steamers 
were  sent  within  twenty-four  hours  into  Kirkwall  and 
Lerwick  under  armed  guard,  2  of  them  being  found  to 
contain  German  subjects. 

Beset  by  fogs,  often  so  dense  as  to  obscure  all  vision, 
and  with  German  submarines  still  active,  the  patrol  con- 
tinued its  difficult  and  arduous  task.  One  dark  night, 
with  a  breeze  blowing,  wireless  telegraphy  signals  w^ere 
received  from  a  ship  on  "  C  "  patrol  to  the  effect  that  the 
captain  and  officers'  watch  could  smell  petrol.  As  none 
of  the  ships  carried  petrol,  it  was  concluded  that  a  sub- 
marine had  just  passed  to  windward  of  this  ship,  probably 
waiting  for  daylight  to  get  a  shot  at  the  vessels  on  that 
patrol  line.     On  receiving  this  signal  the  Admiral  moved 

CH.  v]      A    TYPICAL   INSTANCE    OF   HEROISM  139 

the  whole  line  thirty  miles  to  the  westward  during  the 
night,  which  avoided  that  submarine,  while  at  the  same 
time  not  impairing  the  efficiency  of  the  patrol.  One  can 
imagine  the  disgust  of  the  commander  of  the  submarine, 
after  all  his  trouble  to  locate  the  patrol,  when  he  realised 
that  he  had  been  outwitted.  The  place  of  the  India  had 
in  the  meantime  been  filled  by  the  Almanzora.  In  the 
course  of  their  work  the  ships  were  repeatedly  succouring 
neutrals,  as  well  as  British  and  Allied  ships. 

Instances  of  individual  heroism  and  seamanship  on  the 
part  of  officers  and  men  of  the  vessels  of  the  patrol  were 
of  such  daily  occurrence  as  to  forbid  any  attempt  at  a 
complete  record.  A  typical  instance  of  the  sort  of  prob- 
lems set  to  and  solved  by  even  the  youngest  officers  of  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  may,  however,  be  cited  in  the 
experience  of  Midshipman  C.  A.  Bamford,  R.N.R.,  and 
Sub-Lieutenant  D.  L.  Edwards,  R.N.R.,  during  two 
voyages,  each  beginning  on  September  16th.  On  this 
day  Mr.  Bamford  had  been  placed  in  charge  of  an  armed 
guard  on  board  the  Swedish  topsail  schooner  Valand, 
bound  from  Iceland  to  Leith  with  a  cargo  of  herrings, 
with  orders  to  take  the  schooner  to  Lerwick,  making 
Muckle  Flugga  during  the  dark  hours,  if  possible.  A 
light  fair  wind  was  experienced  until  the  morning  of  the 
following  day,  when  the  wind  began  to  haul  easterly. 
At  half-past  nine  the  next  morning  Myggenaes,  in  the 
Faeroes,  was  sighted,  bearing  S.E.  by  S.  By  the  evening 
of  this  day,  however,  the  wind  had  increased  to  a  strong 
south-easterly  gale,  and  on  the  morning  of  the  20th  the 
gale  had  become  so  high  that,  after  consultation  between 
the  captain  of  the  Valand  and  Mr.  Bamford,  it  was  resolved 
to  heave  to. 

As  the  wind  continued  to  increase,  the  only  course  then 
seemed  to  be  to  run  north  and  sail  down  the  eastern 
side  of  the  Faeroes.  This  was  accordingly  done,  and 
at  8  p.m.  on  September  21st  Myggenaes  was  once  more 
sighted,  this  time  bearing  S.  by  W.  At  this  point  the 
Valand^s  steering  gear  broke  down,  but  fortunately  the 
gale  had  somewhat  moderated,  and  in  a  few  hours 
the  necessary  repairs  had  been  effected.  On  the  22nd 
the  little  vessel  was  becalmed,  but  on  the  following  day 
a  head  wind  was  encountered,  accompanied  by  dense 
banks  of  fog.     On  the  25th  the  fog  had  cleared,  and  there 

140         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [en.  v 

was  a  moderate  east-north-east  wind.  By  this  time  pro- 
visions had  been  almost  exhausted  and  rehance  had  to  be 
placed  mainly  on  salt  herrings  from  the  cargo.  At  noon 
the  wind  once  more  began  to  blow  from  the  north-east,  and 
by  evening  the  vessel  was  again  labouring  in  a  strong 
north-easterly  gale.  At  8  o'clock  Muckle  Flugga  was 
sighted,  but  owing  to  the  fierceness  of  the  storm  and  the 
absence  of  coast  lights,  and  the  improbability  of  sighting 
any  of  the  patrol  near  Lerwick,  it  was  decided  to  steer  a 
course  farther  eastward  rather  than  to  attempt  to  make 

At  1  o'clock  on  the  morning  of  the  26th  the  fore  rigging 
carried  away,  and  the  foremast  itself  nearly  went  over- 
board, but  by  knocking  away  the  bulwarks  on  the  port 
side,  passing  wire  stropes  round  the  ribs  of  the  ship,  and 
rigging  up  temporary  stays,  the  damage  was  repaired  in 
a  few  hours'  time.  On  the  evening  of  September  27th 
Mr.  Bam  ford  determined  to  make  another  attempt  to 
get  to  Lerwick,  and  accordingly  sailed  northward  on  the 
port  tack.  At  4  o'clock  in  the  morning  of  the  following 
day  the  starboard  anchor  was  carried  overboard,  but  was 
eventually  got  on  board  again  without  doing  any  damage 
beyond  making  a  dent  in  the  ship's  side.  An  hour  later 
land  was  sighted,  and  at  8  o'clock  it  was  discovered  that 
the  ship  was  between  the  Fair  Island  and  Sumburgh  Head, 
the  north-east  gale  having  set  the  vessel  to  the  westward. 
As  it  was  then  clearly  impossible  to  get  to  Lerwick,  and, 
in  view  of  the  wind,  dangerous  to  attempt  to  reach  Kirk- 
wall, the  ship's  gear  being  in  a  rotten  condition — sails 
and  ropes  carrying  away  incessantly — Mr.  Bamford  now 
decided  to  run  before  the  gale  and  try  to  make  Leith. 

On  September  29th  land  was  sighted  bearing  west- 
north-west,  and  at  4  p.m.  the  storm-beaten  V aland  passed 
close  to  a  town  which  her  master  thought  was  Aberdeen. 
Sail  was  reduced  accordingly  in  order  to  make  Bell  Rock 
by  dayhght.  As  there  were,  however,  no  proper  charts 
or  navigation  instruments  on  board,  and  as  the  sun 
had  not  been  visible  since  the  Shetlands  had  been  left 
behind,  it  was  not  surprising  that  an  error  in  the  vessel's 
bearing  was  made,  the  town  which  had  been  sighted 
being  Montrose  and  not  Aberdeen.  At  4  o'clock  on  the 
morning  of  September  30th  the  Valand  attempted  to 
go  through  the  southern  channel  of  the  Forth   between 

cii.  v]         THE    "  HAUGAR'S "    EXPERIENCES  141 

May  Island  and  Dunbar,  but  was  instructed  by  destroyers 
to  enter  by  the  northern  channel.  Owing  to  the  wind, 
May  Island  was  not  weathered  until  5  o'clock  that  evening, 
when  the  vessel  proceeded  up  the  Forth  as  far  as  Largo 
Bay  and  anchored  for  the  night,  to  proceed  next  morning 
into  Leith  Roads  after  an  experience  that  none  on  board 
was  likely  to  forget. 

Somewhat  similar  were  the  adventures  of  Sub-Lieutenant 
D.  L.  Edwards,  who  was  in  charge  of  an  armed  guard 
on  board  the  Norwegian  brigantine  Hangar,  also  bound 
from  Iceland,  with  a  cargo  of  herrings,  to  the  port  of 
Haugesund.  With  similar  orders  to  take  the  vessel  into 
Lerwick,  Lieutenant  Edwards  set  his  course  accordingly, 
and  on  September  18th,  at  daybreak,  sighted  the  Faeroes. 
Here,  however,  caught  in  the  same  gale  as  the  Valand 
was  experiencing,  he  agreed  with  her  master  that  the 
only  course  to  adopt  was  to  heave  the  vessel  to.  The 
seas  were  running  so  high  that  the  pump  had  to  be  worked 
continually  ;  the  ship,  which  was  over  fifty  years  old,  was 
leaking  badly,  and  the  water  in  her,  in  spite  of  all  efforts, 
was  increasing  rapidly.  While  the  original  crew  of  the 
Hangar  were  manning  the  pumps.  Lieutenant  Edwards, 
with  the  armed  guard,  trimmed  the  sails  as  necessary. 
Throughout  the  next  day  the  gale  continued  unabated, 
heavy  seas  being  continually  shipped.  The  topmast  back- 
stay was  carried  away  and  a  preventor  rigged. 

On  September  20th  the  vessel  was  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  Faeroe  Bank,  and,  the  wind  decreasing  a  little,  a  course 
was  set  on  the  starboard  tack.  At  9  o'clock  next  morning 
the  Faeroes  were  again  sighted  ;  the  ship  was  headed 
for  Dimon  Fjord,  the  wind  being  south-south-east.  As  it 
was  essential  to  weather  the  Faeroes,  and  not  anticipating  a 
change  of  wind  before  they  could  tack  clear  of  them.  Lieu- 
tenant Edwards  and  the  master  of  the  Hangar  decided  to  go 
through  the  fjord  and  thus  save  considerable  time.  By 
8  o'clock  they  were  due  north  of  Sydero  Island,  where  they 
were  becalmed  and  drifted  out  to  sea  again.  At  7  o'clock 
in  the  evening  a  south-westerly  wind  sprang  up,  and  they 
again  attempted  to  go  through  the  fjord,  but  when  only 
half  a  mile  from  the  high  land  the  wind  dropped  and  the 
tide  carried  the  ship  landward.  By  then  it  was  quite 
dark,  no  lights  were  visible  and  the  vessel  was  near  the 
rocks.     Drifting  west,   and  almost  sweeping  against  the 

142         MERCHANT   SEAMEN   AND    BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

rocks,  there  now  became  visible  to  leeward  a  ledge  of 
rocks  running  out  to  sea,  and  as  it  seemed  impossible  that 
the  ship  would  be  able  to  clear  them.  Lieutenant  Edwards, 
after  consulting  with  the  master,  decided  that  the  ship 
would  have  to  be  abandoned.  The  lifeboat  was  accord- 
ingly hoisted  out  with  topsail  halyards,  and  as  it  was  not 
provisioned,  Lieutenant  Edwards  put  his  remaining 
stores  into  it.  The  boat  was  then  pulled  off  a  little  way, 
there  being  no  place  where  a  landing  was  possible,  and 
those  on  board  watched  the  ship  drift  towards  the  rocks. 
To  everyone's  surprise,  however,  she  passed  clear  of  them, 
so  they  once  more  re-embarked  from  the  boat,  which  was 
itself  leaking  so  badly  that  it  had  to  be  continually  baled. 

On  once  more  getting  on  board  the  Haugar,  Lieutenant 
Edwards  found  that  the  compass  had  been  broken  to 
pieces  by  the  main  boom,  but  luckily  there  was  a  spare 
compass,  which  he  succeeded  in  rigging  up.  A  breeze  now 
sprang  up  from  the  south-south-west,  and  the  Haugar  pro- 
ceeded to  tack  to  the  south  of  Sydero.  By  September  22nd 
the  provisions  which  Lieutenant  Edwards  had  brought 
with  him  had  been  finished  and  the  ship  had  not  much 
left  in  the  way  of  stores.  Those  on  board  had  therefore 
to  subsist  almost  entirely  on  hard  bread  and  salt  fish. 
On  September  23rd  they  were  once  more  becalmed,  and 
Lieutenant  Edwards,  from  aloft,  sighted  the  Faeroes. 
At  4  o'clock  on  the  morning  of  the  24th  a  breeze  sprang  up 
from  the  north-north-east,  which  freshened  towards  evening. 

The  ship  would  not  head  up  so  high  as  Muckle  Flugga, 
but  it  was  found  that  the  course  would  take  them  south 
of  the  Shetlands,  and  that  they  could  thus  make  Kirkwall 
instead  of  Lerwick.  The  next  day  the  wind  increased  to 
such  an  extent  that  at  8  o'clock  in  the  evening  they  had 
once  more  to  heave  to.  Towards  night  the  weather  grew 
steadily  worse.  Part  of  the  bulwarks  were  stove  in  and 
the  jib  and  stay  sail  were  blown  away.  The  old  ship  was 
now  labouring  heavily  and  making  water  fast  ;  the  armed 
guard  were  helping  at  the  pumps  and  rendering  every 
assistance  possible  to  the  Hangar's  crew.  On  the  next 
day  the  weather  began  once  more  to  moderate,  and  by 
3  o'clock  land  was  sighted,  which  was  made  out  to  be 
Papa  Westra  Island,  north  of  the  Orkneys.  Being  unable 
to  pass  north  of  it,  however,  the  ship  stood  out  again,  and  on 
the  27th  the  wind,  which  was  now  north-north-east,  again 


rose.  Lieutenant  Edwards,  however,  advised  the  master 
to  proceed  on  their  course  in  the  hope  of  sighting  land  before 
dark,  which,  however,  they  did  not  do.  The  heavy 
squalls  were  now  straining  the  ship  in  every  part.  Seas 
were  being  continually  shipped,  and  pumping  was  very 
difficult.  At  daybreak  land  was  sighted,  the  wind  still  being 
in  the  north-north-west  and  blowing  in  violent  squalls. 
Sule  Skerry  was,  however,  successfully  rounded  at  10  o'clock 
in  the  morning,  and  the  port  of  Kirkwall  made  by  6  in  the 
evening,  the  Haugar  then  having  four  feet  of  water  in  her 
holds.  Throughout  this  period  of  stress  and  storm,  the 
conduct  of  all  on  board  was  beyond  praise.  Continually  wet 
through,  and  frequently  only  able  to  snatch  their  sleep 
in  saturated  clothes,  the  highest  standard  of  courage  and 
seamanship  was  maintained. 

Another  incident  at  this  period  further  indicates  the 
difficulties  with  which  the  young  officers  in  charge  of  the 
armed  guards  had  to  deal.  On  September  30th  Sub- 
Lieutenant  Alfred  M.  Easty,  R.N.R.,  boarded  the  Swedish 
steamer  Avesta  in  lat.  60°  46'  N.,  long.  13°  26'  W.,  and 
proceeded  towards  Kirkwall,  the  course  being  set  to  make 
the  Butt  of  Lewis.  At  6.45  a.m.  on  October  1st,  in  lat. 
59°  54'  N.,  long.  10°  40'  W.,  an  enemy  submarine  was 
sighted  by  T.  Watson,  A.B.  (who  was  then  on  watch), 
about  two  points  on  the  port  bow.  This  was  immediately 
reported  to  Mr.  Easty.  The  ship  was  then  steering  S.E. 
by  S.  (magnetic)  and  steaming  at  about  8  knots.  When 
sighted,  the  submarine  appeared  to  be  steering  to  the 
southward.  About  7  a.m.  she  altered  course  to  the  south- 
south-east.  She  did  not  appear  to  be  capable  of  any  great 
speed,  as,  although  closing  the  Avesta,  she  was  drawing 
astern  all  the  time.  She  was  also  evidently  either  using 
an  excess  of  oil  or  having  some  engine  trouble,  as  she  was 
smoking  slightly.  The  Avesta  hoisted  the  Swedish  colours 
on  sighting  the  enemy.  Mr.  Easty  ordered  the  guard  to 
keep  out  of  sight  and  to  hide  their  uniforms  as  much  as 
possible,  he  himself  removing  his  cap  and  jacket.  The 
captain  was  instructed  to  keep  a  steady  course  and  speed 
as  long  as  possible,  and  was  told  that  should  he  be  com- 
pelled to  stop,  he  was  to  make  no  mention  of  having  an 
armed  guard  on  board.  He  replied  that  he  would  probably 
have  to  give  some  reason  for  his  present  course,  as  apparently 
the  Germans  were  aware  that  the  vessels  of  his  line  (A. 


144         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCI^DE    [ch.  v 

Johnson,   Stockholm)  made  a  northerly  course  on  their 
homeward  voyage. 


I  accordingly  instructed  him,"  Mr.  Easty  recorded 
afterwards,  "  to  inform  the  submarine  commander  that 
he  was  proceeding  to  Kirkwall  voluntarily.  Probably, 
had  we  been  examined,  a  German,  who  was  a  member 
of  the  crew,  would  have  informed  the  enemy  of  our 
presence.  It  was  useless  to  attempt  to  hide  him,  as 
his  name  and  nationality  appeared  on  the  crew  list. 
I  must  here  remark  that  the  Swedish  captain  behaved 
with  great  courtesy  and  seemed  only  too  anxious 
to  do  all  he  could  for  us.  Meanwhile  the  submarine  was 
closing  us,  and  about  7.30  a.m.  she  was  about  3  points 
abaft  the  port  beam,  distant  about  one  mile.  She  then 
hoisted  a  signal  .  .  .  but  as  we  could  not  clearly  dis- 
tinguish the  flags,  we  kept  our  course  and  speed.  Just  at 
this  time  smoke  appeared  to  the  eastward,  and  a  vessel 
looking  remarkably  like  a  cruiser  was  apparently  approach- 
ing. The  submarine  also  saw  this  vessel,  and  evidently 
thought  her  to  be  a  cruiser,  for  she  turned  and,  without 
bothering  further  about  us,  made  off  in  a  north-westerly 
direction,  and  was  soon  lost  in  a  rain  squall.  She  was 
seen  again  later,  proceeding  slowly  in  a  westerly  direction. 
The  approaching  vessel  proved  to  be  the  American 
s.s.  Polarine  of  New  York — an  oil-carrier.  She  was 
light,  and  steering  W.  by  S.  She  appeared  to  be 
keeping  a  steady  course  and  speed  so  long  as  she  was  in 

"  The  submarine  appeared  to  be  one  of  the  modern 
large  ones.  She  was  on  the  surface  the  whole  time.  I 
was  unable  to  ascertain  whether  she  carried  a  gun  or  not, 
but  she  appeared  to  have  been  at  sea  for  a  considerable 
time.  She  was  covered  with  rust,  and  looked  something 
like  a  '  drifter  '  at  a  distance.  She  was  last  seen  at  about 
7.50  a.m.  steering  west  at  a  slow  speed.  I  reported  having 
sighted  a  submarine — giving  the  position  and  direction 
she  was  last  seen  heading— by  semaphore  to  one  of  the 
armed  trawlers  (fitted  with  W/T)  which  stopped  me  off 
Cape  Wrath  at  8  a.m.  on  October  2nd.  We  arrived  at 
Kirkwall  at  6.30  on  October  2nd,  and  myself  and  armed 
guard  returned  to  H.M.S.  Mantua  at  4  p.m.  on 
October   7th." 


Yet  another  example  of  outstanding  seamanship,  this 
time  on  the  part  of  one  of  the  larger  vessels  of  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron,  was  that  of  the  Hildebrand,  which  inter- 
cepted and  boarded  on  October  16th  the  Norwegian 
steamer  Corona,  bound  from  Baltimore  to  Bergen  with  a 
load  of  grain.  Her  master  having  stated  that  his  ship  had 
sprung  a  leak  and  was  sinking,  the  crew  of  the  Corona 
was  taken  on  board  the  Hildebrand,  which  stood  by  the 
damaged  vessel.  The  crew  were  thoroughly  examined, 
six  of  them,  who  had  joined  at  Baltimore,  being  placed 
under  arrest  on  account  of  their  suspicious  character. 
In  the  meanwhile  the  Otway  had  been  directed  to  proceed 
at  full  speed  to  assume  charge  of  possible  salvage  opera- 
tions, intercepting  en  route,  and  sending  into  Kirkwall 
with  an  armed  guard,  the  Danish  steamer  United  States, 
which  was  proceeding  east  with  312  passengers,  amongst 
whom  was  a  well-known  Austrian  aviator,  Guido  von 

It  was  at  midnight  that  the  Corona  had  first  been  inter- 
cepted by  the  Hildebrand,  and  by  half-past  eight  the 
next  morning  it  was  discovered  that  she  had  made 
18  inches  of  water  above  the  stokehold.  The  leak,  how- 
ever, appeared  to  be  a  small  one  and  confined  to  the 
engine-room  and  stokehold,  and  accordingly  an  attempt 
at  towing  was  undertaken  at  a  quarter  to  one.  At  half- 
past  five  the  steamer's  cable,  which  was  being  used  in  con- 
junction with  the  wire  hawsers,  parted,  but  in  spite  of  the 
very  heavy  sea  that  was  running  at  the  time,  she  was 
once  more  taken  in  tow  shortly  before  9  o'clock  and 
headed  for  Stornoway.  In  view  of  the  darkness  of  the 
night,  the  heavy  seas  that  were  running,  and  the  presence 
of  possible  submarines,  this  was  an  exceptionally  skilful 
and  daring  piece  of  seamanship  on  the  part  of  Captain 
Edwards,  R.N.,  to  which  the  attention  of  the  Admiralty 
was  afterwards  drawn  by  Admiral  Jellicoe,  in  command 
of  the  Grand  Fleet.  Unfortunately  Captain  Edwards' 
efforts  were  not  destined  to  be  successful,  and  at  11 
o'clock  on  the  following  morning  the  Corona  had  to  be 
sunk,  as  she  was  likely  to  become  a  danger  to  navigation. 

That  the  Hildebrand,  and  indeed  all  the  vessels  of  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  were  often,  in  spite  of  their 
policing  functions,  friends  in  need,  was  again  made  clear 
when,  on  October  30th,  this  vessel  intercepted  the  Danish 

146         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKA.DE     [ch.  v 

sailing-ship  Haracaibo  and  supplied  her  with  eight  days' 
provisions,  the  heavy  south-easterly  gales  having  pre- 
vented her  from  making  any  headway  towards  Lerwick, 
her  port  of  destination. 

Throughout  the  rest  of  October,  and  indeed  at  frequent 
intervals  throughout  the  whole  of  the  following  two 
months,  the  patrol  work  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
was  carried  on  in  the  face  of  such  weather  as  has  already 
been  described  in  the  experiences  of  the  preceding  three 
officers.  Vessels  to  be  examined  were  almost  daily  boarded 
under  conditions  of  wind  and  sea  that  in  ordinary  times 
would  have  seemed  to  involve  the  highest  degree  of  risk. 
Often  the  weather  was  so  bad  that  even  by  the  storm-ex- 
perienced boarding-parties  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron, 
it  was  found  impossible  to  get  a  footing  upon  suspected 
vessels  ;  and  on  these  occasions  it  was  frequently  found 
necessary  to  follow  such  vessels  and,  in  some  cases,  to  lie 
to  while  keeping  them  in  company.  In  a  letter  to  the 
Admiralty  at  this  period  Lord  Jellicoe  drew  attention  to 
the  fact  that  "  very  heavy  weather  was  experienced  by 
the  patrols  "  and  that  "  a  number  of  ships  were  boarded 
and  armed  guards  placed  on  board  in  most  difficult 

Another  type  of  difficulty,  and  one  that  illustrates  the 
tax  that  was  at  all  times  placed  upon  the  tact  and 
initiative  of  the  responsible  officers,  may  be  exemplified 
in  the  experience  of  the  armed  guard  from  the  Columbella, 
which  was  placed  on  board  the  American  sailing-ship 
Andrew  Welch  on  November  2nd.  After  sighting  several 
submarines,  the  Andrew  Welch  rounded  Muckle  Flugga 
on  November  6th,  in  an  attempt  to  make  Lerwick,  under 
the  usual  stormy  conditions.  She  spoke  to  a  patrol-boat 
off  Noss  Head,  which  directed  her  to  heave  to,  but  dis- 
appeared again  from  sight  without  rendering  her  any 
assistance.  The  weather  becoming  worse,  the  master  of 
the  Andrew  Welch  wished  to  make  for  the  port  of  Helm- 
stadt,  in  Norway,  and  on  the  refusal  of  the  officer  in 
charge  of  the  armed  guard  to  allow  this,  the  crew  of  the 
Andrew  Welch  struck  work.  As  the  armed  guard  was, 
of  course,  quite  insufficient  for  working  the  ship,  a  com- 
promise had  necessarily  to  be  made,  and  the  officer  in 
charge  agreed  to  try  and  attempt  to  make  the  port  of 
Aberdeen.     On  November  11th    the  little  vessel  accord- 

CH.  V]  A    GREAT   RECORD  147 

ingly  arrived  off  Girdleness,  where  signals  were  made  for 
a  pilot  and  a  small  steamer  was  spoken,  which  promised 
to  send  out  a  tug.  The  tug  did  not  arrive,  however,  and  the 
heavy  gale  from  the  north-north-west  obliged  the  Andrew 
Welch  to  remain  hove  to  for  three  whole  days  and  nights. 
Once  more  the  crew  refused  to  work,  and  as  the  water  supply 
was  getting  very  low  and  the  pumps  were  failing  to  draw, 
the  officer  of  the  guard  was  at  last  obliged  to  run  for  the 
nearest  Norwegian  port,  Christiansund,  where  he  put 
himself  into  communication  with  the  British  Consul,  and 
whence,  with  his  armed  guard,  he  was  subsequently  allowed 
to  return  home.  That  such  instances  of  insubordination 
were  rare  is  perhaps  the  best  tribute  to  the  firmness  and 
humour  with  which  these  officers,  many  of  them  little 
more  than  boys,  carried  out  their  difficult  and  delicate 

The  transition  year  of  1915,  during  which,  as  we  have 
seen,  the  nature,  personnel,  and  technical  equipment  of  the 
patrol  had  had  to  be  very  considerably  modified  as  well 
as  amplified  owing  to  the  unprecedented  and  unforeseen 
exigencies  of  a  sea  blockade  under  modern  war  conditions, 
was  now  drawing  to  an  end,  and  Admiral  de  Chair  was  able 
to  give  a  summary  of  the  work  done  under  these  trying 
conditions.  Despite  the  weather,  the  almost  constant 
presence  of  enemy  submarines,  the  losses  of  time  and 
material  as  the  result  of  inevitable  accidents,  and  the 
primitive  nature  of  the  island  bases  upon  which  the  patrol 
largely  depended,  the  ships  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
had  patrolled,  without  intermission,  an  area  of  220,000 
square  miles.  During  this  time  3,068  ships  had  been 
intercepted  on  the  high  seas  and  carefully  examined. 
Of  this  number,  743  were  found  to  be  carrying  contraband 
and  otherwise  suspicious  cargoes,  and  had  been  in  conse- 
quence sent  to  British  ports  for  examination  and  confis- 
cation of  cargo  as  considered  desirable  by  the  authorities 
in  charge. 

During  the  twelve  months,  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
had  lost  two  ships  by  submarine  attack,  the  Bayano  and 
India  ;  two  by  mines,  the  Viknor  and  the  Arlanza  ;  and 
one  by  foundering  at  sea  in  heavy  weather,  the  Clan 
Macnaughton.'^  With  these  ships  there  had  gone  down 
some  63  officers  and  800  men.     With  regard  to  the  armed 

1  The  Arlanza  was  brought  into  harbour. 

148         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

guards  placed  on  intercepted  vessels,  some  typical  experi- 
ences of  which  have  already  been  recorded,  the  casualties 
sustained  by  these  were  remarkably  few,  only  one  guard 
being  taken  prisoner,  while  two  had  their  prizes  sunk  under 
them  by  submarines.  Of  the  vessels  intercepted,  90 
were  American,  857  Norwegian,  300  Swedish,  606  Danish, 
8  Dutch,  1  Spanish,  and  1  Argentine.  In  addition  264 
British  vessels,  17  French,  124  Russian,  2  Belgian,  and 
1  Italian  were  examined,  while  7  other  vessels  of  unknown 
nationality  were  also  intercepted.  In  addition  to  these, 
817  fishing-craft  of  seven  different  nationalities  came 
under  notice  and  were  examined. 

Even  more,  perhaps,  to  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
than  to  any  other  portion  of  the  British  sea  services 
during  the  war  was  the  value  of  wireless  telegraphy  under 
modern  war  conditions  apparent.  Continually  moving 
from  place  to  place  in  the  course  of  their  patrol,  covering 
in  so  doing  enormous  distances,  and  seldom  in  sight  of  one 
another,  the  efficient  control  of  the  ships  of  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron  would  have  been  impossible  without  the 
aid  of  wireless  telegraphy.  How  great  a  reliance  was 
placed  upon  it  during  the  year  1915  may  be  gathered 
from  the  fact  that  a  daily  average  of  twenty-one  signals 
was  sent  and  forty-six  signals  received  by  the  one  senior 
officer  alone  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron,  an  average, 
throughout  the  year,  of  one  signal  every  twenty-one 
minutes,  although  the  amount  of  such  signalling  was 
strictly  reduced  to  the  smallest  possible  minimum. 

Throughout  the  year,  except  during  brief  periods  in 
M^hich  she  had  to  go  to  port  for  coaling  and  repairs, 
the  Alsatian  remained  the  flagship  of  the  Tenth 
Cruiser  Squadron,  under  the  command  of  Rear-Admiral 
Dudley  de  Chair,  Commodore  Benson  taking  over  the 
command  in  his  absence.  For  262  days  the  Alsatian 
was  at  sea,  steaming  during  that  time  71,500  miles  and 
using  40,287  tons  of  coal,  a  record  that  may  be  taken  as 
typical  of  the  work  of  each  ship  of  the  squadron. 

The  year  went  out  in  gales.  The  character  of  the 
weather  is  reflected  in  the  story  of  the  wreck  of  the 
British  steamer  Morning  in  lat.  62°  21'  N.,  long.  6°  W., 
when  the  patrol-ship  Cedric  rescued  the  master  (Mr.  Andrew 
Smith)  and  the  second  officer  (Mr.  Joe  Hansen).  The 
steamer — a  Dundee  whaler — was  loaded  with  ammunition 


at  Brest  and  was  on  her  way  to  Archangel.  She  left 
Queenstown  on  December  21st,  and  after  bunkering  in 
the  Faeroes  was  spoken  by  the  Alsatian  on  December  22nd 
during  a  south-easterly  gale.  The  master  stated  that 
after  leaking  for  two  days,  due  to  working  of  ship,  she 
foundered  on  the  morning  of  December  24th  in  lat. 
64°  15'  N.,  long.  7°  W.  With  the  exception  of  the  second 
mate  and  himself,  the  crew  were  drowned,  the  boats  being 
stove  in.  Both  men  were  much  exhausted,  having  been 
four  days  in  an  open  boat  in  bad  and  very  cold  weather. 

Admiral  Jellicoe  was  in  no  doubt  as  to  the  devotion 
exhibited  by  officers  and  men  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron.  He  reported  to  the  Admiralty  at  the  close  of 
1915  that  he  was  "  fully  in  agreement  "  with  Rear-Admiral 
de  Chair  in  praising  the  work  which  they  had  done  under 
conditions  of  much  difficulty  and  in  the  face  of  great 
dangers.  "  The  work  of  officers  and  men,"  he  remarked, 
"  merits  the  highest  commendation." 

As  the  Old  Year  closed  in  gales,  so  did  1916  open  with 
fierce  winds  and  high  seas.  The  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron, 
in  maintaining  the  blockade  of  the  enemy,  had  to  struggle 
against  a  variety  of  difficulties  during  winter  days  and 
nights.  Under  such  circumstances  it  was  not,  therefore, 
surprising  that  orders  could  not  sometimes  be  carried  out, 
and  in  a  typical  failure  to  do  so,  owing  to  overwhelming 
handicaps,  the  significance  of  the  work  successfully  accom- 
plished can  better  perhaps  be  appreciated.  As  an  example 
we  have  the  adventures  of  a  young  officer  of  the  Royal 
Naval  Reserve,  Lieutenant  S.  F.  Carter,  who  had  been 
placed,  on  December  21st,  in  charge  of  an  armed  guard 
consisting  of  one  midshipman  and  four  seamen,  on  board 
the  Norwegian  barque  Skomvaer.  Provided  with  supplies 
for  eight  days,  and  with  orders  to  take  the  Skomvaer  into 
Lerwick,  it  was  not  until  January  1st,  owing  to  the  strong 
easterly  winds,  that  Lieutenant  Carter  was  able  at  last 
to  make  a  run  for  this  port.  During  the  interval,  in  which 
he  had  been  beating  about,  he  had  fallen  in  with  other 
vessels  of  the  patrol,  the  Orotava  on  December  26th,  who 
had  supplied  him  with  provisions  for  a  further  eight  days, 
and  the  Cedric  on  January  1st,  who  had  given  him  pro- 
visions for  another  five  days.  On  January  1st,  the  wind 
veering  to  the  south-west,  he  was  able  at  last  to  run  toward 
Lerwick,   passing  Muckle  Flugga  two  days  later  at  2.30 

150         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND   BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

p.m.,  and  arriving  off  Lerwick  in  the  first  watch.  For 
five  whole  days,  however,  it  w^as  a  case  of  being  so  near 
and  yet  so  far,  and  owing  to  the  contrary  and  baffling 
winds,  he  was  unable  actually  to  get  into  port.  By 
January  8th,  so  fierce  was  the  gale  blowing  from  the 
northward,  that  he  decided  at  last  to  run  his  vessel  into 
Kirkwall,  but  on  the  evening  of  the  next  day  the  wind 
fell  back  to  the  south-west,  and  he  once  more  headed, 
according  to  his  orders,  for  Lerwick. 

On  January  10th  a  gale  was  blowing  from  the  west-north- 
w^est,  and  in  the  forenoon  the  master  informed  him  that 
provisions,  water,  and  oil  were  all  running  short,  and  the  crew 
complained  to  the  master  respecting  the  safety  of  the  ship. 
The  sea  was  then  running  so  high  that  at  5  p.m.  the  master 
insisted  that  the  ship  must  run  for  safety,  and  Lieutenant 
Carter  reluctantly  consented,  and  accordingly  ran  to  the 
south-eastward.  On  the  next  day  the  Norwegian  coast 
was  sighted,  in  a  period  of  calm  between  heavy  snow 
squalls,  and  on  January  12th,  shortly  after  noon,  a  pilot 
w^as  picked  up.  The  Skomvaer  then  tried  to  make  either 
the  port  of  Stavanger  or  Haugesund,  but  was  eventually 
taken  in  tow  by  two  small  tugs  on  January  13th  and  towed 
into  Flekkefjord,  where  she  arrived  early  in  the  morning 
of  January  14th,  more  than  three  weeks  after  Lieutenant 
Carter  had  boarded  her  with  his  armed  guard. 

On  January  15th  the  weather  was  once  more  so  bad 
that  the  patrols  were  forced  to  lie  to,  the  wind  increasing 
to  hurricane  force.  So  fierce  was  the  gale  that  the  Orotava, 
which  was  at  Swarbacks  Minn  for  the  purpose  of  coaling, 
dragged  both  anchors  and  was  unable  to  complete  her 
coaling.  The  boom-gate  vessel  of  the  port  also  dragged 
her  anchors,  so  that  the  entrance  to  the  harbour  was 
temporarily  blocked,  while  the  shore  end  of  the  boom  net 
defence,  which  was  secured  round  a  large  rock,  was  carried 
away  owing  to  the  splitting  of  the  rock  under  the  enor- 
mous strain.  Four  days  later  the  Duke  of  Cornwall, 
which  had  left  Swarbacks  Minn  to  return  to  Longhope  with 
despatches,  was  also  forced  to  put  back  to  harbour  owing 
to  the  heavy  seas  running,  while  ships  coaling  at  Busta 
Voe  were  obliged  to  stop  coaling  and  raise  steam,  some  of 
them  dragging  their  anchors,  although  all  had  two  anchors 
down.  The  next  day  the  Patia  reported  that,  while  hove 
to,  she  had  shipped  so  heavy  a  sea  that  her  bridge  had 


been  seriously  damaged  and  an  officer  injured,  while  at 
Swarbacks  Minn,  in  going  alongside  the  Artois,  the  collier 
came  into  collision  with  her,  making  a  hole  in  the  port 
bow  with  the  crown  of  her  starboard  anchor.  On 
January  21st  the  Orotava  reported  that  her  wheelhouse 
and  all  bridge  fittings  had  been  smashed  by  a  heavy  sea, 
and  that  she  had  been  obliged  to  run  before  the  gale, 
endeavouring,  but  unsuccessfully,  to  use  her  hand- 
steering  gear.  On  Januarj'^  22nd,  owing  to  the  heavy 
weather,  the  gate  of  the  boom  at  Swarbacks  Minn  was 
damaged  and  sank  below  the  surface  in  the  centre  and 
could  not  be  opened,  while  the  main  deck  in  the  store- 
room passage  on  the  starboard  side  of  the  Orcoma  was 
buckled  by  about  seven-eighths  of  an  inch.  The  persist- 
ence of  the  patrol  in  continuing  its  work  under  such 
conditions  is  perhaps  evidenced  by  the  fact  that  no  less 
than  ten  vessels  were  intercepted  in  that  stormy  week, 
eight  of  them  being  sent  into  port. 

Of  the  skill  and  stout-heartedness  that  made  such  a 
record  possible  in  such  conditions,  an  admirable  instance 
is  afforded  by  the  experience,  a  day  or  two  later,  of  the 
Ebro.  This  vessel,  on  January  24th,  intercepted  the 
Norwegian  barque  Beechbank,  with  an  armed  guard  on 
board,  in  lat.  61°  25'  N.,  long.  1°  50'  E.  The  barque  was 
trying  to  make  Lerwick,  but  had  lost  her  fore  and  maintop 
masts,  her  mizzen  and  top-gallant  mast,  and  nearly  all 
her  sails  and  boats.  As  the  barque  herself  was  com- 
paratively undamaged,  however,  the  Ebro  resolved  to 
endeavour  to  take  her  in  tow,  but  could  not  at  first  suc- 
ceed in  doing  so,  owing  to  the  heavy  weather.  There  was 
nothing  for  it,  therefore,  but  for  the  Ebro  to  stand  by  till 
morning,  the  crew  of  the  Beechbank  proving  themselves 
somewhat  difficult  to  handle  and  refusing  to  go  aloft. 
The  cutting  away  of  the  mizzen  and  top  sail  and  other 
work  aloft  had,  therefore,  to  be  carried  out  by  the  Royal 
Naval  Reserve  officers  of  the  armed  guard.  Lieutenant 
Wynn,  and  the  master  of  the  ship,  Lieutenant  Wynn 
taking  complete  charge  after  the  dismantling  had  been 

On  the  following  day  the  weather  continued  very  bad, 
with  a  gale  from  the  west-south-west,  and  the  sea  ran 
so  high  that  it  was  found  impossible  to  communicate  by 
boat,  while  the  Ebro  herself,  being  in  light  condition,  with 

152         MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND    BLOCKADE    [ch.  v 

only  22  per  cent,  of  coal  remaining,  became  somewhat 
unmanageable.  This  difficulty  was  overcome  by  veering 
an  anchor  and  six  shackles  of  cable,  a  dangerous  experi- 
ment, but  one  that  justified  itself  in  steadying  the  Ebro 
and  enabling  hawsers  to  be  got  on  board  the  other  vessel 
by  means  of  a  rocket  and  a  buoyed  line  drifting  to 

The  Beechbank  was  thus  eventually  got  into  tow  with 
a  6-inch  and  5 i -inch  wire  and  90  fathoms  of  her  chain 
cable.  By  half  an  hour  after  noon,  the  Ebro  and  Beech- 
bank  were  on  their  way  to  Lerwick  at  a  maximum  speed 
of  2  knots,  with  the  Alcantara  standing  by  as  a  defence 
against  submarine  attack.  Throughout  the  night,  in 
spite  of  heavy  weather,  the  Ebro  succeeded  in  towing 
the  Beechbank  towards  her  destination,  and  was  at  last 
successful  in  reaching  Lerwick  at  10  o'clock  on  the  morning 
of  January  27th.  Had  Commander  Dugmore  of  the 
Ebro  not  succeeded  in  taking  the  Beechbank  in  tow,  she 
would  almost  inevitably  have  been  lost,  as  she  was  being 
driven  by  the  gale  on  to  a  lee  shore.  For  their  work  in 
this  connection.  Commander  Dugmore,  R.N.,  of  the 
Ebro,  and  Lieutenant  Wynn,  R.N.R.,  in  charge  of  the 
armed  guard  in  the  Beechbank,  received  the  special  com- 
mendation of  the  Lords  Commissioners  of  the  Admiralty. 

Till  the  end  of  the  month  the  weather  continued  rough 
and  difficult,  but  nevertheless  during  the  last  seven  days 
of  January  twenty-one  vessels  were  intercepted  and 
examined  and  five  sent  into  port.  Nor  did  February 
open  more  auspiciously,  as  can  be  gathered  from  the 
incidents  that  followed  the  interception,  on  February  2nd, 
of  the  Danish  sailing-ship  Vigilant  by  the  patrol-vessel 
Artois.  At  the  first  attempt  of  the  latter  to  send  a  party 
on  board,  there  was  an  accident  with  the  boat  and  a 
man  fell  overboard.  He  was  picked  up,  however,  and 
the  Vigilant  was  safely  reached.  It  was  found  that  her 
foremast  was  gone,  and  her  rigging  in  such  a  bad  state 
that  the  master  requested  that  he  and  his  crew  should  be 
taken  on  board  the  Artois.  This  was  done  with  very 
great  difficulty,  owing  to  the  weather,  and  an  attempt 
was  then  made  to  tow  the  derelict  vessel,  which  was 
loaded  with  wood  and  leaking  badly.  The  weather  became 
worse,  however,  and  it  was  found  impossible  to  get  the 
Vigilant  in  tow,  the  Artois  consequently  standing  by  her 

CH.  V]  A    STERN   FIGHT  153 

for  the  night.  As  the  Vigilant  had  been  bound  for 
Morocco,  and  as  it  was  considered  most  desirable  to  get  her 
to  Stornoway  in  order  that  she  might  be  well  searched, 
in  view  of  the  possibility  that  she  might  be  carrying 
stores  for  enemy  submarines  in  the  Mediterranean,  the 
Orco7na  was  also  sent  by  Rear-Admiral  de  Chair  to 
stand  b^^ 

Throughout  the  next  day  the  Artois  continued  to  keep 
in  touch  with  the  Vigilant,  but  was  unable  to  take  her 
in  tow  on  account  of  the  high  seas.  On  February  4th 
the  weather  improved  a  little  and  the  Or  coma  helped 
the  Artois  in  taking  the  Vigilant  in  tow,  and  they  pro- 
ceeded towards  Stornoway  at  a  speed  of  4  knots,  the 
Mantua  subsequently  joining  them  in  order  to  protect 
them  from  submarine  attack.  On  February  5th,  owing 
to  the  gale  increasing  again,  the  Artois's  speed  was  reduced 
to  1  knot,  a  further  escort  consisting  of  a  yacht,  two 
whalers,  and  a  tug,  which  had  been  ordered  out  from 
Stornoway,  being  unable  to  join  them  owing  to  the  stormy 
weather.  On  the  evening  of  that  day  the  Artois  arrived 
under  the  lee  of  the  Butt  of  Lewis,  and  at  last,  on 
February  6th,  she  succeeded,  in  spite  of  the  force  of  a 
full  gale,  in  safely  arriving  with  her  prize  at  Stornoway. 
Great  care  had  to  be  taken  in  overhauling  and  boarding 
prizes  in  case  they  might  be  raiders  in  disguise. 

While  the  work  of  the  patrol  was  thus  continuing,  under 
conditions  of  the  utmost  difficulty,  the  cliief  event  of  the 
month  was  the  action  which  took  place  on  Tuesday, 
February  29th,  between  the  Alcantara  and  Andes  and  the 
German  raider  Greif,  which  resulted  in  the  loss  of  the 
Alcantara  after  a  fierce  and  plucky  fight,  and  the  subse- 
quent destruction  of  the  Greif  hy  the  guns  of  the  Andes. 

On  February  29th,  1916,  at  8.45  a.m.,  the  Alcantara, 
when  on  patrol,  sighted  smoke  on  her  port  beam  and, 
steering  towards  it,  sighted  a  steamer  flying  the  Nor- 
wegian flag  and  steaming  north-east.  Acting  under 
previous  orders.  Captain  Wardle  took  care  to  find  out 
all  about  her  before  getting  within  4,000  yards.  He 
inquired  her  name  by  signals,  and  was  told  she  was  the 
Rena  from  South  America  with  a  cargo  of  coffee.  Lloyd's 
Register  proved  the  existence  of  a  ship  of  that  name,  so 
Captain  Wardle  closed,  signalling  to  the  stranger  to  stop 
her    engines.     When    she    had    done    so,    the    Alcantara, 

154         MERCHANT   SEAMEN  AND    BLOCKADE     [ch.  v 

getting  M'ithin  2,000  yards,  with  her  guns  manned  and 
all  ready  for  action,  examined  her  carefully,  and  approached 
from  right  astern  to  board.  When  about  1,000  yards 
distant,  the  Rena's  ensign  staff,  carrying  the  Norwegian 
flag,  dropped  over  the  stern,  her  steering  house  on  the  poop 
disappeared,  disclosing  a  gun  ;  flaps  fell  down  on  the  ship's 
side,  and  guns  opened  fire,  the  German  ensign  being 
hoisted  at  the  moment.  The  Alcantara  replied  at  once 
with  her  bow  guns.  The  opposing  vessel  was  hit  repeatedly, 
receiving  serious  injury.  In  desperation  the  mysterious 
vessel  discharged  torpedoes,  but  without  success. 

The  action  had  lasted  about  forty  minutes,  when  the 
enemy  abandoned  ship  owing  to  the  fierce  fires  which 
had  broken  out,  and  Captain  Wardle  ceased  firing.  The 
Alcantara  had  been  badly  holed  in  the  water-line,  and, 
listing  to  port,  turned  on  her  side  and  sank  at  11  a.m. 
The  Andes,  being  the  next  ship  on  patrol,  had  closed  on 
receiving  the  Alcantara's  signals,  and  came  up  in  time  to 
take  part  in  the  action  and  sink  the  enemy.  The  Comus 
and  MuNSTER,  which  had  also  arrived  on  the  scene,  helped 
to  finish  off  the  enemy  and  pick  up  survivors.  An  officer 
and  110  men  of  the  enemy  ship  were  rescued.  The 
German  prisoners  admitted  that  the  sunken  vessel  was 
the  Greif.  She  had  been  secretly  converted  into  a  raider 
at  Hamburg,  and  was  carrying  a  crew  of  360  officers  and 
men.  She  had  left  Germany  a  few  days  earlier  and  was 
making  for  the  Atlantic  to  raid  commerce.  She  had  not 
reckoned  on  the  vigilance  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron, 
and  her  loss  was  a  severe  disappointment  to  the  Germans. 

By  this  time  the  blockade  was  proving  highly  efficient. 
It  was  not  until  it  had  been  in  operation  for  some  time 
that  smooth  working  was  secured.  The  whole  system 
represented  an  innovation,  and  day  by  day  experience 
suggested  ways  in  which  the  efficiency  of  the  system  could 
be  improved.  At  first  the  Customs  House  officers,  accus- 
tomed to  the  routine  of  a  Free  Trade  policy,  found  it 
difficult  to  adjust  themselves  to  new  conditions.  It  had 
hitherto  been  their  habit  to  board  incoming  merchant 
ships  and  to  content  themselves  with  a  formal  inquiry 
for  dutiable  wines,  spirits,  or  cigars,  making  examinations 
only  when  the  circumstances  were  suspicious.  When  the 
new  regime  of  the  blockade  was  introduced,  some  of  the 
masters  of  neutral  ships,  familiar  with  the  ordinary  routine. 


would  produce  a  few  bottles  of  whisky  and  allow  the 
Customs  officers  formally  to  seal  them.  This  apparent 
honesty,  there  was  afterwards  reason  to  believe,  was 
intended  to  divert  attention  from  contraband  carefully 
hidden  away  in  the  bottom  of  the  hold.  A  few  weeks 
of  experience  of  the  blockade  worked  wonders,  and  the 
Customs  officers  were  so  "  knowing  "  that  all  the  devices 
adopted  to  elude  the  blockade  proved  fruitless.  Probably 
never  before  did  an  enemy,  and  those  in  collusion  with 
him,  adopt  so  many  ingenious  ruses.  Among  them  a 
few  may  be  mentioned  as  a  matter  of  interest : 

(1)  Double  bottoms,  decks,  and  bulkheads,  concealed 
guns,  rifles,  and  other  firearms  and  ammunition. 

(2)  Copper  keels  and  copper  plates  on  sailing-ships. 

(3)  Hollow  masts. 

(4)  Rubber  onions.  These  were  discovered  when  a 
British  officer  dropped  one  on  the  deck.  "  The  onion 
bounced  10  feet  into  the  air." 

(5)  Rubber  concealed  in  coffee  sacks. 

(6)  Cotton  concealed  in  barrels  of  flour. 

(7)  Rubber  honey,  made  in  the  form  of  honeycomb 
filled  with  a  curious  liquid  mixture. 

(8)  False  manifests.  This  was  the  most  frequent  form 
of  "faking."  In  several  instances,  where  the  captain  of 
the  neutral  realised  that  the  "  game  was  up,"  he  produced 
both  the  genuine  and  the  false  manifests  for  boarding- 
officers  to  compare  ;  a  form  of  frankness  not  without  its 
element  of  humour. 

But,  in  spite  of  every  artifice,  and  in  spite  also  of  gales 
of  wind,  high  seas,  fogs,  and  a  variety  of  difficulties,  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  had  succeeded  in  interrupting 
most  of  the  trade  by  sea  which  the  enemy  was  endeavouring 
to  carry  on. 

The  success  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  and  the 
course  of  events  generally  since  the  war  had  opened  had 
created  a  new  situation  as  far  as  the  blockade  was  con- 
cerned. At  the  outbreak  of  war  absolute  contraband 
consisted  only  of  those  articles  which  were  exclusively 
of  military  character,  such  as  guns,  ammunition,  etc. 

Conditional  contraband  included  foodstuffs,  but  they 
had  to  be  destined  for  the  use  of  the  fleets  and  armies  of 
the  enemy.  This  left  many  of  the  important  articles 
included  under  the  heading  of  raw  materials  quite  free. 

156        MERCHANT  SEAMEN  AND  BLOCKADE      [ch.  v 

and  it  was  only  gradually  that  such  were  restricted.  During 
this  time  the  arduous  work  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron 
was,  in  a  great  measure,  being  nullified  by  the  release  of 
ships  carrying  necessaries  for  the  enemy,  but  finally  the 
extreme  dissatisfaction  of  the  Navy  (especially  of  the 
officers  and  men  employed  in  the  blockade)  became  ap- 
parent to  the  Government,  and  the  establishment  of  a 
Ministry  of  Blockade,  with  headquarters  at  the  Foreign 
Office,  was  determined  upon.  In  March  1916  it  was  de- 
cided to  appoint  Admiral  Sir  Dudley  de  Chair  as  naval 
adviser  in  order  to  bring  his  great  experience  to  bear  on 
the  problem,  and  try  to  make  the  blockade  work  of  the 
Navy  more  directly  effective.  Consequently,  on  March 
6th,  1916,  he  hauled  down  his  flag  to  take  up  his  tem- 
porary appointment  at  the  Foreign  Office,  subsequently 
being  selected  to  represent  the  British  Navy  on  Mr. 
Balfour's  War  Mission  to  the  United  States  of  America 
in  1917. 

In  a  speech  at  Montreal  University  on  May  31st,  1917, 
on  the  occasion  of  the  Honorary  Degree  of  LL.D.  being 
conferred  on  Admiral  de  Chair,  Mr.  A.  J.  Balfour,  who 
had  served  for  some  months  as  First  Lord  of  the  Ad- 
miralty, recalled  that  that  officer,  during  "  the  long  early 
months  of  the  war,"  was  in  command  of  the  Tenth  Cruiser 
Squadron,  "  which  practically  carried  out,  single-handed, 
the  blockade  of  Germany — night  and  day  through  summer 
and  winter  in  the  stormiest  seas  to  be  found  anywhere  on 
the  face  of  the  globe."  "The  Squadron  under  his  com- 
mand," Mr.  Balfour  added,  "  carried  out,  untiring,  un- 
checked, and  with  unqualified  success,  the  great  task  with 
which  they  had  been  entrusted.  While  we  remember  and 
know  these  things,  there  are  two  great  branches  on  which, 
perhaps,  our  ordinary  thoughts  are  least  occupied.  One 
is  the  unflinching  service  rendered  by  our  Merchant  Marine 
in  the  face  of  dangers  never  contemplated  as  incident  to 
the  life  of  a  sailor,  and  not  less  than  this  is  the  work  of  that 
Cruiser  Squadron  to  which  I  have  referred,  whose  labours 
were  more  continuous,  more  important,  and  more  successful 
than  any  other  branch  of  His  Majesty's  naval  forces." 
Sir  Dudley  de  Chair  was  succeeded  in  command  of  the 
Tenth  Cruiser  Squadron  by  Vice- Admiral  Reginald  Tupper. 




An  incomplete  picture  of  the  extent  and  character  of  the 
operations  of  the  AuxiHary  Patrol  would  be  presented  if 
the  impression  were  conveyed  that  its  work  was  confined 
to  the  waters  around  the  British  Isles.  From  a  compara- 
tively early  date  in  the  war,  a  demand  for  auxiliary  craft 
came  from  the  Mediterranean.  At  the  beginning  of 
November  1914  the  Turkish  forts  on  the  Gallipoli  Penin- 
sula had  been  bombarded  for  a  short  time,  and  in  the 
following  February  a  determined  movement  to  force  the 
Straits  was  initiated.  It  soon  became  apparent  that 
the  men-of-war  engaged  in  this  operation  were  as 
dependent  for  safety  on  mine-sweeping  trawlers  as  were 
the  vessels  of  the  Grand  Fleet  in  the  North  Sea.  Hopes 
of  forcing  the  Dardanelles  rested  on  the  success  of  trawlers 
in  sweeping  a  clear  passage  for  the  battleships,  cruisers, 
and  destroyers,  for  the  entrance  was  strongly  defended 
by  successive  mine-fields.  The  demand  for  auxiliary 
craft  in  the  Mediterranean  became  more  insistent  later  on, 
when  it  became  impossible  to  sweep  in  face  of  heavy  fire 
from  the  shore  batteries,  and  the  men-of-war  had  to  be 
content  with  rendering  aid  to  the  Allied  military  forces 
by  distant  bombardment  of  the  Turkish  batteries  and 
positions.  This  change  of  tactics  oflered  to  the  enemy 
the  opportunity  of  employing  submarines,  and  several 
of  these  craft  issued  from  the  Adriatic  to  attack  the 
bombarding  vessels.  The  need  thus  arose  for  patrol 
trawlers  and  drifters  provided  with  nets  to  assure  the 
safety  of  the  men-of-war. 

Another  stage  in  the  operations  opened  on  Italy  entering 
the  war  on  the  side  of  the  Entente  on  May  23rd,  1915. 
By  this  time  German  and  Austrian  submarines,  operating 
from  Cattaro,  had  been  encouraged  by  the  disadvantages 
which  the  neutrality  of  Italy  had  inflicted  on  the  Allies, 



to  attack  the  maritime  lines  of  communication  between 
the  Straits  of  Gibraltar  and  the  Dardanelles,  thronged 
with  men-of-war  and  supply  ships,  and  eventually  they 
threatened  the  trade  route  between  the  northern  end 
of  the  Suez  Canal  and  the  Atlantic,  over  which  essential 
supplies  of  goods  of  various  kinds  were  being  conveyed 
from  the  Far  East  and  the  Antipodes.  This  phase  of  the 
enemy's  activities  led  to  a  determined  attempt  on  the  part 
of  the  Allies  to  restrict  the  use  of  the  submarine  bases 
on  Cattaro  and  Pola,  an  operation  facilitated  by  Italy's 
entrance  into  the  war.  This  problem  closely  resembled 
those  presented,  respectively,  by  the  Straits  of  Dover  and 
the  North  Channel,  to  which  allusion  has  already  been 
made.  Whilst  Cattaro  in  the  Adriatic  corresponded 
roughly  to  the  position  of  Zeebrugge  in  the  Straits  of 
Dover,  in  the  case  of  the  North  Channel  the  enemy's 
submarine  bases  were  several  hundred  miles  distant. 
Since  the  problem  of  defending  these  three  Straits  had 
much  in  common,  the  tactics  adopted  were  very  similar. 
When  the  position  in  the  Mediterranean  became  critical, 
drifters  were  dispatched  by  the  Admiralty  to  shoot  their 
nets  in  the  Adriatic  as  they  had  done  at  the  southern 
exit  of  the  Irish  Sea,  as  well  as  off  Zeebrugge,  in  the  hope 
of  denying  passage  to  the  enemy  submarines  issuing 
from  the  Austrian  ports.  The  defensive  measures  in  the 
Mediterranean  had,  of  course,  to  be  varied  owing  to 
differences  in  depths  and  distances,  but  generally  the 
problems  of  the  three  straits  were  identical  in  character. 
The  various  stages  in  the  operations  of  the  auxiliary 
craft  in  the  Mediterranean  may  be  stated  with  advantage 
in  chronological  order.  On  January  19th,  1915,  arrange- 
ments were  made  by  the  Admiralty  to  collect  twenty-one 
mine-sweeping  trawlers  as  soon  as  possible  and  dispatch 
them  to  the  Dardanelles.  They  were  to  be  sent  first  to 
Devonport,  to  be  coaled  and  provisioned.  Of  this  twenty- 
one,  seven  were  selected  from  Grimsby  and  fourteen  from 
Lowestoft.  On  January  28th  thirteen  of  them  set  out  from 
Devonport  under  Commander  William  Mellor,  in  the  traw- 
ler Escallonia,  and  the  remaining  eight  followed  a  few 
days  later,  after  remedying  certain  engine-room  defects. 
The  first  trawlers  began  to  arrive  at  Gibraltar  on 
February  3rd,  and  the  next  day  left  for  Malta.  Four  days 
later  these  vessels  put  into  Malta,  where  they  were  fitted 


out  for  the  dangerous  work  that  was  awaiting  them. 
The  Dardanelles  campaign  could  not  begin — so  telegraphed 
the  Commander-in-Chief — until  the  arrival  of  these  craft, 
so  important  had  the  fishing-vessel  become  in  modern 
naval  warfare.  By  February  21st  the  whole  of  the  twenty- 
one  trawlers  had  assembled  at  Malta,  of  which  four  had 
sailed  for  the  Dardanelles  on  February  15th  and  another 
four  two  days  later. 

On  February  25th  the  trawlers  began  their  task  of 
sweeping  at  the  entrance  to  the  Dardanelles,  covered 
by  a  division  of  battleships  accompanied  by  destroyers. 
Within  two  days  they  had  swept  a  distance  of  four  miles 
from  the  entrance  of  the  Straits,  no  mines  having  been 
found.  The  plan  was  that  the  trawlers  should  first  clear 
areas  in  which  the  battleships  could  manoeuvre  for  the 
purpose  of  bombarding  the  enemy's  forts.  But  it  was  when 
the  sweepers  approached  the  Narrows  that  the  trouble 
began,  for  at  this  position  the  enemy  had  laid  line  after 
line  of  mines  between  the  Asiatic  and  European  shores. 
Furthermore  he  had  protected  these  mines  by  batteries 
and  searchlights.  There  was  a  strong  current  running 
down  towards  the  Dardanelles  Straits  further  impeding 
the  work  of  the  trawlers.  The  undertaking  of  the  trawlers 
was  therefore  difficult  as  well  as  dangerous  and,  as  events 
were  to  prove,  impossible  in  spite  of  all  the  courage, 
seamanship,  and  tenacity  of  purpose  exhibited  by  the 
fishermen  in  face  of  dangers  they  had  never  thought  to 
confront.  On  March  1st  these  little  ships  steamed  up 
under  cover  of  darkness,  protected  by  destroyers.  They 
swept  to  within  three  thousand  yards  of  Kephez  Point. 
It  was  a  bright  moonlit  night.  When  abreast  of  the 
Suandere  Biver,  the  enemy's  batteries  opened  such  a 
fierce  bombardment  that  the  trawlers  had  to  retire,  the 
destroyers  aiding  their  withdrawal  by  making  a  smoke 
screen.  Fortunately  none  of  the  trawlers  was  hit,  and 
Admiral  Carden  telegraphed  to  the  Admiralty  that  the 
sweepers  were  doing  excellent  work. 

But  at  this  date  neither  the  magnitude  of  the  Dardanelles 
task  nor  the  hopelessness  of  the  mine-sweeping  trawlers' 
efforts  was  appreciated.  The  key  to  the '  problem  of 
advance  was  the  mine-fields  at  the  Narrows.  The  battle- 
ships and  cruisers  were  held  up  till  the  fishermen,  recently 
arrived  from  the  North  Sea,  could  clear  a  wide  channel 



in  the  face  of  powerful  batteries  and  forts.  During  the 
night  of  March  6th-7th  the  sweepers,  protected  by  the 
light  cruiser  Amethyst  and  destroyers,  again  essayed  the 
task,  and  were  once  more  driven  back  by  the  enemy's 
guns.  During  the  night  of  March  lOth-llth  seven  more 
trawlers,  attended  by  two  picket-boats  fitted  with  explosive 
creeps,  and  supported  by  H.M.S.  Canopus,  Amethyst, 
and  destroyers,  once  more  entered  the  Dardanelles  and 
proceeded  up  the  Straits.  The  protecting  vessels  opened 
fire  on  the  batteries  and  searchlights  which  guarded  the 
Kephez  mine-fields,  but  it  proved  impossible  to  extinguish 
the  lights  by  gunfire.  In  spite  of  the  enemy's  heavy  fire, 
the  trawlers  Escallonia,  Avon,  Manx  Hero,  Syringa, 
Beatrice  II,  Gwenllian,  and  Soldier  Prince,  together  with 
the  picket-boats,  succeeded  in  getting  above  the  mine-field, 
the  intention  being  to  sweep  down  with  the  current. 

In  this  inferno  of  invisible  mines,  blinding  searchlights, 
and  bursting  shells,  the  position  of  the  trawlermen  was  not 
an  enviable  one.  The  result  was  that  only  one  pair  of 
sweepers  succeeded  in  getting  out  their  sweep,  securing  a 
couple  of  mines.  The  trawler  Manx  Hero  struck  a  mine, 
blew  up,  and  sank,  though  the  crew  were  picked  up. 
Two  trawlers  were  struck  by  shells  and  a  couple  of  men 
wounded.  It  is  remarkable  that  any  of  these  dauntless 
men  escaped  the  ordeal,  for  all  the  vessels  were  under 
heavy  fire  from  6-inch  guns  and  weapons  of  lesser  calibre. 
Although  the  first  pair  of  trawlers  had  succeeded  in  getting 
out  their  sweep,  it  is  matter  for  little  surprise  that  both 
the  second  and  third  pair  failed  to  run  a  proper  sweep, 
with  the  result  that  little  progress  was  made  that  night. 

On  the  following  night  another  group  of  trawlers  made  the 
effort,  and  in  view  of  their  experience  their  names  should  be 
perpetuated.  They  consisted  of  the  Restrivo,  Vidonia, 
Star  of  the  Emjnre,  Frascati,  Fentonian,  Strathlossie,  and 
Strathord.  The  plan  was  to  be  the  same  as  had  been 
adopted  on  the  previous  night.  Similar  misfortunes  were 
again  encountered.  As  soon  as  the  sweepers  entered  the 
rays  of  the  searchlights,  the  enemy's  guns  opened  fire 
and  seven  shells  dropped  over  the  trawlers.  The  sweepers, 
realising  the  odds  which  were  against  them,  absolutely 
defenceless  against  such  attack,  turned  sixteen  points  and 
retired.  But  let  no  one  dare  to  call  these  men  cowards  ! 
Throughout    the    whole    war    these    fishermen    and    their 


R.N.R.  officers  were  never  frightened  of  mines  or  sub- 
marines, which  they  attacked  with  the  greatest  possible 
gallantry  whenever  they  encountered  them  ;  but  it  was 
quite  another  matter  to  take  these  men  straight  from 
the  North  Sea  and  turn  them,  ordinary  fishermen,  into 
conspicuous  targets  for  field-guns  and  forts.  No  harder 
or  more  dispiriting  a  task  was  ever  set  the  vessels  of 
the  Auxiliary  Patrol  throughout  the  war  than  that  of 
sweeping  the  Dardanelles  Straits.  The  dice  were  so 
loaded  against  them  that  the  sweepers  had  no  chance. 
To  have  been  successful  the  operation  required  very  fast 
craft  fitted  with  efficient  gear,  and  very  highly  and  speci- 
ally trained  crews  ;  moreover,  the  work  had  to  be  done 
by  day,  if  at  all.  As  it  was,  the  sweeping  was  carried 
out  by  night  by  slow  trawlers  handicapped  by  the  current, 
whose  officers  and  men  were  inexperienced  and  had  never 
before  been  under  shell  fire. 

In  the  circumstances,  it  was  decided  to  stiffen  the  crews 
with  volunteer  officers  and  men  from  the  Royal  Navy, 
and  volunteers  were  speedily  forthcoming.  But  not  even 
with  this  aid  was  it  possible  to  get  to  Kephez.  On 
March  18th  the  Restrivo  and  five  sister  vessels  made  the 
attempt — by  daylight  this  time.  One  pair  got  out  their 
sweep,  but  owing  to  the  fire  from  howitzers  and  field 
guns  they  were  unable  to  reach  Kephez.  The  reorganisa- 
tion of  the  mine-sweeping  flotilla  at  the  Dardanelles  indeed 
was  to  prove  a  lengthy  operation.  Many  of  the  original 
crews  who  had  brought  out  these  trawlers  were  unwilling 
to  continue  sweeping  under  heavy  fire  and  were  sent  back 
to  home  waters,  where  they  performed  excellent  work. 
Their  places  were  taken  by  volunteer  crews.  Roughly 
about  half  of  the  original  trawler  ratings  were  recalled  home 
— to  the  number  of  about  one  hundred.  There  were  plenty 
left  behind  to  continue  to  assist  in  the  work.  The 
admiration  of  the  naval  authorities  found  expression  in 
the  recommendation  by  Admiral  de  Robeck  to  the  Admir- 
alty for  the  award  of  a  D.S.O.  to  Skipper  Alfred  Swain, 
of  the  trawler  Escallonia,  and  Skipper  Alfred  E.  Berry, 
of  the  trawler  Frascaii.  These  skippers  and  their  men 
had  been  constantly  under  fire,  but  still  continued  to  serve 
in  the  Dardanelles  campaign.  By  April  7th  the  Com- 
mander-in-Chief had  discontinued  mine-sweeping  inside 
the   Straits,    as   he   considered   that   the   results   did   not 


justify  the  risks  which  had  to  be  run  from  the  fire  of  the 
enemy.  Thus,  until  the  end  of  the  war,  these  mines  were 
never  swept,  and  therefore  the  fleet  never  penetrated 
the  Narrows.  A  change  in  tactics  occurred  and  the  work 
of  the  Navy  consisted  in  supporting  the  Army. 

This  change  involved  further  work  for  the  trawlers, 
though  of  a  different  character.  They  were  required  to 
carry  out  all  sorts  of  unfamiliar  duties  in  support  of  the 
naval  operations.  As  an  illustration,  some  account  may  be 
given  of  the  events  of  April  25th,  a  day  which  will  always 
be  known  in  the  Antipodes  as  "  Anzac  Day."  The  first 
landing  of  the  Australian  and  New  Zealand  troops  north 
of  Gaba  Tepe  was  carried  out  under  the  orders  of  Rear- 
Admiral  Cecil  F.  Thursby,  with  whose  squadron  fifteen 
trawlers  were  associated.  In  reporting  upon  this  opera- 
tion, Admiral  de  Robeck  wrote  :  "I  should  like  to  place 
on  record  the  good  service  performed  by  the  vessels 
employed  in  landing  the  second  part  of  the  covering  force  : 
the  seamanship  displayed  and  the  rapidity  with  which  so 
large  a  force  was  thrown  on  the  beach  is  deserving  of  the 
highest  praise."  Similarly  at  the  southern  extremity  of 
the  Gallipoli  Peninsula  the  fourteen  trawlers  under  Rear- 
Admiral  R.  E.  Wemyss  performed  excellent  work.  By 
this  time  the  Admiralty  were  dispatching  reinforcements 
from  England  to  Admiral  de  Robeck's  fleet.  On  March 
15th  Lowestoft  had  been  ordered  to  send  thirty  of  the 
fastest  mine-sweeping  trawlers  to  Falmouth,  en  route 
for  Gibraltar,  Malta,  and  Lemnos.  Eight  fleet-sweepers, 
including  railway  steamers  which  had  been  attached  to  the 
Grand  Fleet  in  the  early  stages  of  the  war,  but  had  been 
found  unsuitable  for  the  duty,  were  now  dispatched  to  the 
Dardanelles,  calling  at  Plymouth.  On  March  17th  the 
Lowestoft  trawlers  left  and  they  reached  Plymouth  two 
days  later.  At  Malta  they  were  fitted  with  armour- 
plating  to  protect  winches  and  wheelhouses,  and  then  they 
continued  their  voyage  to  the  Dardanelles. 

But  in  addition  to  the  trawlers  needed  by  the  Army 
for  many  services,  there  presently  devolved  on  them  the 
duty  of  maintaining  an  anti-submarine  patrol.  Germany 
had  come  to  realise  how  seriously  her  war  plans  would  be 
affected  if  success  attended  the  effort  to  force  a  way  through 
the  Dardanelles.  So  she  determined  that  she  herself 
would  supplement  the  submarines  which  Austria-Hungary 

CH.  VI]  THE   U21'S   SUCCESS  163 

had  hitherto  been  operating.  At  first  she  dispatched 
only  small  submarines  of  the  U-boat  type.  These  craft 
had  to  be  sent  out  in  sections  overland  to  Austria  and 
were  put  together  there.  They  were  based  on  Cattaro 
and  operated  in  the  -<Egean.  One  of  these  vessels,  UB3, 
perished  on  a  mine-field  off  Smyrna  soon  after  she  had 
been  put  afloat. 

In  view  of  the  grave  construction  which  was  put  upon 
the  Allies'  plans  for  bringing  pressure  on  Turkey,  the 
Germans  decided  on  a  yet  more  ambitious  attempt  to 
intervene.  U21  was  dispatched  from  Ems  on  Anzac  Day 
(April  25th)  under  Lieutenant-Commander  Hersing.  He 
shaped  a  course  round  Scotland.  He  was  to  test  the 
practicability  of  conducting  a  submarine  campaign  in 
the  Mediterranean  with  submarines  which  had  hitherto 
operated  in  the  waters  surrounding  the  British  Isles. 
The  event  is  important  inasmuch  as  it  marked  a  new 
epoch  in  the  use  of  the  submarine.  U21  was  the  first 
German  submarine  to  proceed  to  the  Mediterranean  under 
her  own  power,  and  it  was  the  longest  voyage  which 
any  such  craft  had  hitherto  accomplished  unaccompanied 
and  under  war  conditions.  On  May  13th  she  reached 
Cattaro,  and  a  week  later  left  there  for  the  Dardanelles, 
where,  on  May  25th,  she  torpedoed  and  sunk  H.M.S, 
Triumph,  and  two  days  later  destroyed  H.M.S.  Majestic. 
On  June  5th  she  proceeded  to  Constantinople. 

The  result  of  this  fresh  development  of  the  submarine 
campaign  was  that  new  and  extended  plans  had  to  be 
made  for  protecting  the  bombarding  ships.  It  was  at 
once  decided  to  send  out  twenty  more  trawlers,  as  well 
as  thirty  net  drifters.  From  Poole  thirty  drifters,  with 
nets,  indicator  buoys,  fourteen  days'  coal — half  a  dozen 
of  them  being  also  armed  with  a  3-pounder  apiece — ■ 
started  out  for  the  Dardanelles  in  the  early  hours  of 
June  5th,  reached  Gibraltar  on  June  13th  ;  they  left  for 
the  eastward  two  days  later.  The  twenty  trawlers  had  to 
be  taken  up  specially.  They  were  sent  to  Falmouth, 
where  each  was  armed  either  with  a  3-pounder  or  a 
6-pounder  gun  and  given  extra  crew  accommodation  ; 
the  ventilating  arrangements  were  improved  and  wind  sails 
were  provided  so  as  to  fit  them  for  service  in  the  heat  of 
the  ^gean.  By  June  9th  these  twenty  vessels  had  started 
for  the  voyage  south. 


Some  idea  of  the  work  which  fell  to  these  Dardanelles 
trawlers  may  be  conveyed  in  a  few  sentences.  On 
July  4th  the  trawler  Lord  Wimborne  was  engaged  from 
9.30  p.m.  until  5.30  the  following  morning  landing  troops 
alongside  the  River  Clyde.  She  was  compelled  to  make 
seven  different  attempts,  but  each  time  was  spotted  by  the 
powerful  searchlight  mounted  in  Chanak,  and  promptly 
shelled.  The  trawlers  and  trawlermen  were  the  admira- 
tion of  the  soldiers  whom  they  saved  during  the  preceding 
weeks  from  starvation.  Throughout  the  month  of  July 
the  greatest  strain  of  the  Dardanelles  naval  warfare  was 
borne  by  the  trawlers  employed  in  towing  barges  and 
transporting  wounded  men,  loading  ammunition  by  night 
for  the  Peninsula.  The  men  had  little  chance  of  getting 
sleep,  and  the  craft  were  infested  most  of  the  time  with 
flies,  which  spoiled  the  crews'  food. 

So  rapidly  had  this  auxiliary  force  grown,  that  at  the 
beginning  of  July  Admiral  de  Robeck  had  under  his 
command  47  trawler  mine-sweepers,  31  net-drifters,  20 
armed  trawlers,  7  fleet-sweepers,  and  4  motor  patrol- 
boats,  of  which  3  had  come  out  from  England.  One 
of  the  fleet-sweepers  had  been  equipped  for  mine-laying. 
On  June  2nd  a  blockade  of  Smyrna  had  been  declared, 
and  it  was  being  maintained  by  a  destroyer  and  various 
other  craft,  including  a  couple  of  trawlers  and  two  motor 
gunboats  of  the  Royal  Naval  Motor-Boat  Reserve,  com- 
manded by  R.N.V.R.  officers.  Within  a  few  weeks  U21 
had  been  followed  by  other  U-boats  from  Germany,  bound 
for  Cattaro,  and  thence  to  the  Dardanelles,  and  by  the 
end  of  August  every  available  trawler  in  the  ^gean, 
which  was  not  employed  either  in  handling  supplies  for 
the  army  or  in  escorting  transports,  was  out  on  patrol 
searching  for  enemy  submarines  ;  and  net-drifters  were 
also  at  work  with  their  nets,  protected  by  trawlers 
moving  on  an  outer  circle. 

During  the  autumn  additional  drifters  and  trawlers 
were  sent  out  and  employed  in  connection  with  the 
operations  in  Salonika ;  while  during  the  last  months  of  the 
year  auxiliary  craft  continued  to  perform  other  tasks, 
especially  in  regard  to  protecting  the  transports.  During 
the  evacuation  of  Suvla  and  Anzac,  which  took  place  on 
December  19th-20th,  these  small  craft  again  proved  indis- 
pensable, no  fewer  than  42,700  troops  being  taken  off  by  the 


trawlers  and  fleet-sweepers.  Meanwhile  it  was  the  duty  of 
the  net-drifters  to  protect  the  monitors  and  battleships 
while  bombarding  the  enemy's  coast.  Finally,  on  January 
7th,  1916,  and  the  following  day,  came  the  evacuation  of 
Cape  Helles,  in  which  the  trawlers  took  their  full  share  of 
the  work,  being  once  again  subjected  to  heavy  shell-fire. 
But  even  with  the  evacuations  from  Gallipoli,  the  task 
of  the  trawlers  was  not  ended.  Daily  at  dawn  they  swept 
from  Mudros  boom  defence  for  fifteen  miles,  and  so  serious 
was  the  menace  to  British  merchant  ships  that  a  complete 
chain  of  patrols  had  to  be  maintained  from  JMalta  to  the 
JEge&n  and  all  round  the  islands.  Trawlers  and  drifters 
were  compelled  to  pass  monotonous  days  in  carrying  out 
these  essential  duties.  They  were  well  organised,  armed 
with  guns  and  lance  bombs,  and  most  of  them  also  now  had 
depth  charges. 

Attention  must  now  be  turned  to  the  Adriatic,  where 
the  trend  of  events  had  also  made  enormous  demands  on  the 
craft  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol.  Three  days  after  Italy's 
intervention  in  the  war,  Rear-Admiral  Thursby  had 
reached  Taranto  with  a  division  of  battleships.  From 
the  very  first  it  was  realised  that  it  was  absolutely  neces- 
sary that  the  Austrian  and  German  submarines  based  on 
Pola  and  Cattaro  should,  as  far  as  possible,  be  thwarted. 
The  Otranto  Straits  had  to  be  denied  to  them.  The 
intention  was  to  station  in  these  straits  as  many  fishing- 
craft  as  could  be  provided,  equipped  with  nets,  just  as 
in  the  Dover  Straits,  and  supported  by  destroyers  based 
on  Brindisi  and  Valona,  the  operations  being  covered  by 
aircraft.  As  has  been  stated,  U21  had  reached  Cattaro 
on  May  13th  by  sea,  and  previous  to  this  date  other 
submarines  had  arrived  in  the  Adriatic  overland.  During 
the  month  of  June  these  Adriatic  submarines  were  most 
active.  On  June  9th  H.M.S.  Dublin,  a  light  cruiser 
which  had  joined  the  Adriatic  Squadron,  was  torpedoed 
whilst  returning  from  the  Albanian  coast,  but  managed 
to  reach  Brindisi  under  her  own  steam.  In  the  same 
week  the  Italian  submarine  Medusa  was  torpedoed  by 
UBl5  and  sunk  whilst  on  her  way  to  Venice.  On 
July  7th  the  same  submarine  sank  the  Italian  cruiser 
Amalfi.  It  was  therefore  evident  that  it  was  high 
time  nets  were  at  work  to  make  the  Otranto  Straits 


At  the  end  of  August  it  was  decided  to  send  out  drifters 
from  England  to  the  Adriatic.  The  necessity  arose  at  an 
inopportune  moment,  for,  owing  to  the  great  outburst 
of  submarine  activity  during  this  month  off  the  south- 
western approaches  to  the  Enghsh  Channel,  more  rather 
than  fewer  Auxiliary  Patrol  vessels  were  needed  in  home 
waters.  However,  drifter  fishing  was  about  to  come  to 
an  end,  and  the  opportunity  was  seized  to  take  up 
some  more  Of  these  craft.  The  result  was  that  sixty 
drifters  were  got  ready  for  the  Adriatic,  Commander  O. 
Hatcher,  R.N.,  being  appointed  to  command  them.  On 
the  last  day  of  August  the  first  batch  left  Falmouth  for 
the  Adriatic,  via  Gibraltar,  and  by  September  10th  the 
whole  of  the  sixty  had  arrived  at  Gibraltar.  By  the  end 
of  the  month  the  last  of  the  flotillas  had  reached  Taranto, 
and  by  September  25th  the  first  two  divisions  had  been 
dispatched  to  lay  their  nets  across  the  Otranto  Straits. 

It  was  on  October  12th  that  the  first  dramatic  incident 
occurred  to  these  craft.  The  line  of  drifters  with  their  nets 
were  laid  across  the  Straits  -v^'ithin  but  fifty  miles  of  the 
enemy's  base  at  Cattaro.  At  8  o'clock  that  morning 
the  drifter  Restore  was  separated  about  three  miles  from  the 
other  drifters.  She  had  for  armament  only  a  few  rifles, 
and  therefore  was  no  match  for  the  modern  submarine 
with  her  gun  or  even  guns.  With  the  odds  heavily 
against  the  little  fishing-craft,  an  enemy  U-boat,  about 
four  miles  away,  began  to  shell  the  Restore  with  two  guns. 
The  drifter  was,  of  course,  quite  unable  to  maintain  any 
engagement,  so  she  blew  her  whistle,  sent  up  rockets,  and 
steamed  towards  Saseno  Island  to  the  north-eastward. 
Unfortunately  one  shell  passed  through  the  Restore, 
exploding  in  the  engine-room,  and  disabled  her.  The 
drifter's  crew  had  no  alternative  but  to  get  into  their 
boat,  after  which  the  U-boat,  from  about  two  miles,  closed 
to  twenty  yards  and  again  shelled  the  ship,  sinking  her 
within  three  minutes.  Having  attacked  three  other 
drifters,  the  U-boat  steamed  northward  towards  Cattaro. 
This  experience  was  not  without  its  sequel,  for  by 
November  13th  all  the  Adriatic  drifters  had  been  armed. 
Admiral  Thursby  had  sent  a  request  to  the  Admiralty 
for  more  of  these  drifters.  From  Poole  and  Milford,  where 
they  had  been  serving,  additional  craft  accordingly  steamed 
to  Falmouth,  and  a  few  days  before  Christmas  thirty-five 


had  reached  Brindisi  to  supplement  the  work  of  the 
original  sixty  vessels. 

But  in  the  meantime  events  of  the  first  importance 
had  been  taking  place  ashore,  no  less  than  afloat.  On 
the  last  day  of  November  the  Serbian  army  began  its 
pathetic  retreat  through  Albania  towards  the  sea,  and 
thenceforward  the  British  drifters  in  the  Adriatic  had  an 
exceptionally  strenuous  and  hazardous  time  until  the  end 
of  February.  Vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  were  indis- 
pensable at  this  most  critical  period  in  the  fortunes  of  the 
Serbians,  To  these  drifters  fell  the  duty  of  assisting  in 
the  evacuation  of  the  Serbian  army  and  thousands  of 
refugees  ;  they  were  present  at  the  landing  of  Italian 
troops  at  Valona  ;  and  they  were  at  hand  at  all  times 
to  succour  disabled  ships.  Thus  on  December  4th,  1915, 
the  Italian  transport  Re  Umberto,  while  carrying  troops  to 
Valona,  struck  a  mine  off  Cape  Linguetta.  In  the  vicinity 
were  the  drifters  Evening  Star  and  Lottie  Leask,  which 
proceeded  alongside  the  sinking  steamship.  They  threw 
all  available  ropes  to  her  decks,  and  over  five  hundred 
soldiers  were  thus  enabled  to  swarm  on  to  the  decks  of 
the  two  drifters  before  the  transport  sank.  Just  in  time 
to  avoid  disaster,  the  drifters  succeeded  in  chopping  away 
the  ropes  as  the  transport  disappeared.  In  this  way 
many  lives  were  saved.  "  The  fact  that  any  were  saved," 
wrote  Admiral  Thursby,  "  is  due  solely  to  the  courage 
and  gallantry  displayed  by  the  skippers  and  crews  of 
these  drifters."  On  the  same  day  the  Italian  destroyer 
Intrepido  was  mined  at  the  entrance  to  Valona,  but  the 
drifter  Manzanita  was  close  by,  and  her  commanding 
officer,  Lieutenant  H.  C.  C.  Fry,  R.N.R.,  placed  her 
alongside  the  destroyer,  notwithstanding  the  risk  of 
mines,  and  took  off  both  officers  and  men. 

These  small  craft  were  always  more  or  less  directly 
exposed  to  attack  by  the  enemy.  For  instance,  on 
December  18th  the  drifter  Lottie  Leask,  when  twenty  miles 
west-north-west  of  Saseno  Island,  was  shelled  by  two 
submarines.  The  drifter  was  able  to  fire  five  rounds, 
but,  after  being  hit  as  many  times,  began  to  sink  and 
had  to  be  promptly  abandoned.  After  rowing  about  for 
all  one  night  in  their  small  boat,  the  crew  landed  on  a 
sandy  beach  and  stayed  that  night  at  a  shepherd's  hut ; 
they    then    wandered    farther    on    till    they   came   to    a 


monastery;  thence,  after  passing  through  swamps  in  the 
darkness,  on  December  22nd  they  fell  in  with  some 
Italian  soldiers,  who  gave  them  biscuits  and  enabled  them 
to  reach  an  Italian  camp.  Thence  they  marched  with 
a  hundred  Serbians  to  Valona,  and  eventually  got  afloat 

The  value  of  the  drifters  in  defending  the  Adriatic  was 
proving  inestimable,  and  by  the  beginning  of  January 
1916  another  fifty  had  to  come  out  from  England.  Mines 
for  their  nets  were  also  beginning  to  arrive,  so  that  if  an 
enemy  submarine  should  foul  their  nets  it  was  hoped 
that  the  U-boat  would  be  destroyed. 

Thus  the  dual  work  of  these  little  ships  went  on.  To 
them  fell  the  lot  of  saving  life  and  destroying  submarines. 
On  January  8th,  1916,  the  Italian  transport  Cittd  di 
Palermo,  carrying,  among  others,  150  British  troops, 
struck  a  mine  about  ten  miles  from  Brindisi.  Notwith- 
standing the  obvious  risk,  twenty-one  drifters  which  hap- 
pened to  be  in  the  vicinity  at  once  steamed  into  the  danger 
zone  to  her  assistance  and  were  able  to  pick  up  about  a 
hundred  survivors.  While  so  doing,  two  of  the  drifters, 
the  Freuchny  and  Morning  Star,  themselves  ran  on  to 
mines  and  blew  up,  but  the  rest  of  the  flotilla,  undaunted 
by  these  disasters,  continued  their  search  for  survivors. 
At  this  period  Durazzo  was  full  of  Serbian  troops  who, 
having  retreated,  were  embarking  to  a  place  of  safety, 
and  the  drifters  were  kept  busy  with  their  nets  off  this 
section  of  the  coast.  The  route  from  Valona  to  Corfu 
had  to  be  actively  protected  by  them  during  the  move- 
ment of  troops  to  the  latter  place.  In  fact  so  much  protec- 
tion had  to  be  afforded  that  these  British  fishermen  had 
scarcely  any  opportunity  for  rest,  and  even  when  they 
were  able  to  get  a  nominal  respite  in  port,  they  were 
liable  to  be  sent  out  at  four  hours'  notice  in  the  event  of 
sudden  attack  by  the  enemy.  The  Otranto  drifters  were, 
in  short,  performing  the  most  active  and  important  work 
in  the  Mediterranean  area  at  this  period. 

So  far,  however,  they  had  not  enjoyed  the  desire  of  every 
patrol  .vessel,  which  was  to  destroy  an  enemy  submarine, 
but  this  stroke  of  good  fortune  was  to  come.  On  January 
20th,  1916,  when  about  seven  miles  west-south-west 
of  Cape  Laghi,  an  engagement  occurred  between  the 
drifter  Garrigill  and  a  U-boat,  in  which  the  latter  broke 

CH.  VI]  A   GOOD    CATCH  169 

off  the  fight.  Eight  days  later  the  Heatherhloom  certainly 
had  a  submarine  in  her  nets  and  dropped  depth  charges 
on  her,  but  with  no  result.  On  February  8th  the  drifter 
Lily  Reaich,  too,  had  a  similar  experience  ;  before  the  end 
of  the  month  this  drifter  had  foundered  on  a  mine  off 
Durazzo.  Several  other  drifters  perished  likewise  on 
mines  about  this  time.  The  danger  suggested  the  defence, 
and  by  the  middle  of  March  vessels  of  this  class,  light 
though  they  were  and  slow,  were  therefore  sent  from 
Brindisi  to  sweep  up  mines.  On  I^Iay  13th,  after  months  of 
weary  waiting,  of  monotonous  routine,  of  varied  dangers  and 
keen  effort,  there  came  at  last  to  the  drifters  a  well-deserved 
reward.  It  happened  in  this  wise.  At  a  quarter-past  nine 
in  the  evening,  when  about  twelve  miles  east-north-east 
of  Cape  Otranto,  the  drifter  Calistoga  (Skipper  William 
Stephens,  R.N.R.)  had  just  finished  towing  her  nets  into 
position  when  an  indicator  buoy  was  fired  and  such  a 
strain  came  on  the  nets  that  the  Calistoga's  head  was 
towed  round. 

It  was  fairly  obvious  that  a  submarine  was  foul  of 
the  nets,  so  the  skipper  took  a  bearing  of  the  buoy  and 
found  it  was  altering  rapidly.  He  then  fired  a  warning 
rocket  signal,  slipped  the  nets,  and  gave  chase  to  the 
buoy.  About  a  thousand  yards  away  was  the  drifter 
Dulcie  Doris,  which  also  slipped  her  nets  and  w^ent  after 
the  buoy.  Presently  a  submarine  came  up  about  five 
hundred  yards  ahead.  The  Dulcie  Doris  opened  fire  on 
her  at  point-blank  range,  hitting  her  three  times  under 
the  conning-tower.  A  third  drifter,  the  Evening  Star, 
which  was  seven  hundred  yards  south-west  of  the  Dulcie 
Doris,  on  seeing  the  indicator  buoy  flare,  also  slipped  her 
nets,  went  in  pursuit,  and  fired  at  the  enemy,  hitting  her 
twice.  The  submarine  listed  over  and  began  to  sink, 
and  the  enemy  crew  was  seen  to  take  to  the  water.  Boats 
were  then  launched  from  the  drifters,  and  the  commander 
and  tw^o  other  officers  were  picked  up,  as  well  as  seventeen 
men.  They  were  taken  as  prisoners  into  Brindisi.  Next 
day  the  second  in  command  admitted  that  they  had  been 
caught  half  an  hour  in  the  net  by  the  propellers,  and  could 
not  get  clear.  By  this  date  the  depth  of  the  nets  had 
been  increased  to  120  feet,  which  it  was  thought  would 
be  the  farthest  depth  to  which  submarines  would  dare  to 
dive.     Thus  ended  the  life  of  the  Austrian  U-boat  No.  VI. 


For  this  fine  service  the  sum  of  £1,000  was  awarded  for 
division  between  the  three  drifters  mentioned. 

On  July  9th,  however,  the  enemy  had  his  revenge, 
when  at  four  in  the  morning  a  group  of  five  drifters, 
based  on  Brindisi,  were  attacked  by  an  Austrian  cruiser, 
with  the  result  that  the  two  drifters  Astrum  Spei  and 
Claim  were  lost.  After  this  incident  it  became  necessary 
to  shift  the  drifter  line  farther  south  down  the  Straits, 
thus  making  it  less  easy  for  the  raiders  to  interfere  with 
them  with  little  risk  to  themselves.  Before  the  end  of 
July  the  armed  yacht  Catania  (Commander  the  Duke  of 
Sutherland,  R.N.R.)  arrived  at  Taranto  in  advance  of  a 
number  of  motor-launches  which  were  coming  out  from 
England  to  patrol  the  Otranto  Straits.  The  drifters 
were  badly  in  need  of  all  the  help  which  could  be  given. 
They  had,  however,  further  evidence  about  this  time  of 
the  success  which  was  attending  their  hazardous  and 
monotonous  work.  About  6.30  a.m.  on  July  30th,  U44 
got  foul  of  the  nets  of  the  Quarry  Knowe,  which  signalled 
the  Garrigill.  The  latter  dropped  depth  charges,  and 
eventually  the  nets,  which  had  evidently  enveloped  the 
submarine,  went  to  the  bottom.  The  career  of  this  vessel 
was  ended.  About  a  month  later  the  enemy  retaliated 
by  sending  three  aeroplanes  over  the  drifter  line  and 
sank  the  Rosies  with  the  second  bomb.  During  the 
autumn  the  drifter  base  was  transferred  from  Brindisi 
to  Taranto,  as  these  craft  were  operating  now  farther 
to  the  southward  across  the  Otranto  Straits.  The  mine- 
layers, too,  were  based  nearer  their  patrol  area,  being 
given  the  use  of  Tricase  Harbour,  which  was  specially 
deepened  for  them. 

In  spite  of  every  effort,  there  was  no  doubt  that  sub- 
marines on  their  way  to  and  from  Cattaro  were  succeeding 
in  avoiding  the  nets,  chiefly  by  crossing  the  line  at  night 
on  the  surface.  Bad  weather,  especially  on  a  dark  night, 
when  the  drifter  line  would  become  more  or  less  scattered, 
was  welcomed  by  the  enemy  submarines  working  in  the 
Mediterranean.  When  once  they  had  negotiated  this 
nominal  barrage  of  the  Otranto  Straits,  they  had  a  clear 
run,  and  only  the  right  weather  and  the  right  time  were 
needed  to  enable  an  enterprising  submarine  commander 
to  get  through.  Indeed,  it  is  remarkable  in  the  circum- 
stances that  any  U-boats  were  sunk.     In  face  of  many 


difficulties,  the  little  steam  vessels — most  of  them  built 
of  wood — of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  did  maintain  a  barrier 
that  was  at  least  tiresome,  often  dangerous,  and  at  times 
fatal,  to  the  enemy's  under-water  craft.  Exposed  to 
attack  from  cruisers,  aeroplanes,  and  submarines,  and 
with  the  lightest  of  weapons  with  which  to  reply,  these 
fishermen  and  junior  officers  of  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve 
deserved  well  of  the  Allies.  The  French  and  Italians, 
less  familiar  than  the  British  seamen  with  the  conditions 
of  such  warfare  as  the  enemy  was  waging,  were  not 
protecting  the  drifters  quite  as  well  as  might  have  been 
expected,  although  various  conferences  between  admirals 
of  the  various  nationalities  took  place  now  and  again. 
The  strain  on  the  fishermen,  the  wear  and  tear  of  drifters 
toAving  their  180-foot-deep  nets,  and  the  large  number  of 
reliefs,  together  with  costly  shore  establishments,  indicated 
how  enthusiastically  Great  Britain  had  come  to  the  sup- 
port of  the  common  cause  in  foreign  waters. 

The  conferences  were  not  fruitless,  and  by  the  middle  of 
December  six  Italian  destroyers  were  patrolling  in  the 
Straits.  On  December  17th  the  Adriatic  drifters  definitely 
sank  yet  another  submarine  ;  this  time  it  was  the  Austrian 
U-boat  No.  XX  which  was  destroyed.  The  enemy  craft 
fouled  the  180-foot-deep  nets  of  the  drifter  Fisher  Girl, 
and  after  a  number  of  depth  charges  had  been  dropped 
by  the  drifters,  she  sank  to  the  bottom  of  the  Adriatic, 
never  again  to  be  seen  on  the  surface.  Five  days  later 
the  enemy  replied  by  attempting  to  raid  the  drifter  line 
by  means  of  a  force  consisting  of  a  light  cruiser  and  three 
or  four  destroyers.  This  incident  occurred  at  9.30  p.m. 
Two  drifters,  the  Gowan  Lea  and  Our  Allies,  were  shelled, 
the  former  being  hit  several  times  and  severely  injured, 
though  there  were  no  casualties.  Fortunately  the  enemy 
force  was  seen  by  six  French  destroyers,  which  were  not 
on  patrol,  but  happened  to  be  passing  the  drifter  line 
en  route  from  Brindisi  for  Taranto.  The  enemy  was 
immediately  chased  by  the  French  vessels  to  the  north- 
ward until  2  a.m.  From  Brindisi  some  Italian  destroyers 
and  H.M.S.  Gloucester  also  put  to  sea  at  11.30  p.m., 
but  the  enemy  was  able  to  escape.  Although  the  Austrians 
had  failed  in  their  plan,  it  was  only  by  a  lucky  chance 
that  several  of  these  British  fishing-craft  were  saved  from 
destruction.     The  defence  of  the  drifters  indeed  consti- 


tuted  a  difficult  problem.  The  drifters  were  required 
because  the  submarines  had  to  be  hindered,  and  the  actual 
losses  of  the  latter  through  the  tactics  of  the  drifters 
showed  what  good  work  was  being  done.  At  the  same  time 
they  furnished  an  easy  target  on  any  night  that  the 
Austrians  might  select.  It  was  therefore  decided  to  vary 
the  position  of  the  net  line  from  time  to  time  and  to  place 
it  still  farther  to  the  southward  ;  the  previous  line  had 
extended  from  a  position  fifteen  miles  east  of  Cape  Otranto 
to  Strade  Blanche,  the  nets  being  used  whenever  the 
weather   permitted. 

We  must  now  leave  the  Adriatic  and  the  Dardanelles 
and  see  what  was  happening  in  the  rest  of  the  Mediter- 
ranean. The  position  in  the  late  summer  of  1915  may 
be  briefly  summarised.  The  Germans  were  still  nervous 
of  the  possible  result  of  the  Dardanelles  campaign.  If 
the  British  forces  after  all  succeeded  in  breaking  through, 
Germany  would  have  virtually  lost  the  war.  The  Germans 
accordingly  began  to  send  submarines  to  hinder  the 
operations.  The  pioneer  voyage  of  Hersing  in  U21  was 
followed  by  Riicker  and  Kophamel  in  U34  and  U35. 
They  set  out  from  Germany  on  August  4th,  and  reached 
Cattaro  three  weeks  later.  They  were  followed  by  U39 
and  U33,  which  left  Germany  on  August  27th  and  28th, 
and  reached  Cattaro  on  September  15th  and  16th,  Orders 
were  also  given  for  other  oversea  submarines  to  follow. 
For  a  time,  then,  the  scene  of  greatest  submarine  activity, 
irrespective  of  mine-layers,  shifted  from  the  British  Isles 
to  the  Mediterranean.  Through  that  sea  passed  not 
merely  transports,  but  passenger  liners  and  cargo  carriers 
from  the  Suez  Canal.  It  was  the  policy  of  the  enemy  to 
wage  a  keen  submarine  warfare  against  Allied  mercantile 
traffic  in  this  southern  sea.  The  torpedoing  of  the 
transport  Royal  Edward  in  the  -^gean  by  UB14  on 
August  13th,  whilst  this  submarine  was  on  passage  from 
Cattaro  to  Constantinople,  showed  what  could  be  expected. 
It  was  to  be  anticipated,  also,  that  as  the  submarine 
mine-layer  off  the  south-eastern  English  coast  had  begun 
to  be  very  active,  before  long  there  would  be  submarine 
mine-layers  in  the  Mediterranean.  If  mines  were  dropped 
off  Malta — an  obvious  position — there  would  be  serious 
danger  to  His  Majesty's  ships  and  transports,  so  it  was 


decided  in  August  to  send  six  trawlers  from  the  Nore 
area  to  Malta  for  mine-sweeping  and  patrol,  the  first  four 
setting  out  on  August  14th. 

During  the  autumn  a  number  of  trawlers  were  pur- 
chased from  Portugal  and,  after  being  commissioned, 
were  based  on  Gibraltar.  During  November  a  dozen 
German  trawlers,  which  had  been  captured  by  Captain 
Tyrwhitt's  Harwich  force  in  the  Heligoland  Bight,  ^vere 
sent  to  Lowestoft,  fitted  out  for  the  Mediterranean,  and 
armed  with  12-pounder  guns.  Other  trawlers  were  simi- 
larly prepared  and  sent  to  Falmouth,  where  they  steamed 
to  the  Mediterranean.  Some  of  the  craft  were  dispatched 
to  Port  Said,  some  to  Malta,  the  others  to  Alexandria, 
In  addition,  the  squadron  of  fast  armed  yachts,  which 
had  been  patrolling  in  the  Irish  Sea,  left  early  in  November 
for  the  Mediterranean,  where,  at  first,  they  were  lent  to 
the  French.  Vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  were  at  this 
period  being  put  to  all  sorts  of  uses.  At  the  end  of 
November,  for  instance,  troops  were  being  sent  from 
Egypt  to  Marsa  Matruh  in  trawlers  owing  to  the  Senussi 
rising.  The  demand  for  armed  trawlers  was  so  insistent 
that  by  December  another  sixty-six  had  to  be  withdrawn 
from  their  patrol  work  off  the  British  coast  and  sent  to  the 
Mediterranean,  thirty-six  being  sent  to  Alexandria  and 
thirty  to  Malta.  The  ex-German  trawlers  gave  a  good 
deal  of  trouble,  owing  to  their  defects,  but  at  Lowestoft 
and  Falmouth,  Gibraltar  and  Malta,  they  were  eventually 
made  serviceable. 

To  organise  these  numerous  patrol-vessels,  Rear- Admiral 
le  Marchant,  who  had  had  experience  with  them  at 
Kingstown,  was  appointed  to  Malta.  A  few  more  yachts, 
such  as  the  ^gusa  and  Safa-el-Bahr,  were  also  dis- 
patched to  the  Mediterranean  before  the  end  of  1915. 
It  was  decided  on  December  23rd  that  the  Gibraltar, 
Malta,  and  Egypt  anti-submarine  patrols  should  be 
arranged  as  follows :  Gibraltar  was  to  have  the  yacht 
squadron,  as  well  as  eight  other  yachts  and  six  sloops  ; 
Malta  was  to  have  four  destroyers,  twelve  sloops,  two 
yachts,  and  forty-eight  trawlers  ;  Egypt  was  to  have  a 
dozen  sloops,  besides  her  group  of  trawlers.  These  elabo- 
rate arrangements  were  necessary  for  the  reason  that  the 
submarine  sinkings  in  the  Mediterranean  were  becoming 
serious.     It  was  unfortunate  that  when  already  there  were 


too  few  Auxiliary  Patrol  craft  in  the  British  Isles  the 
number  had  to  be  depleted.  They  brought  with  them 
south  that  same  eager,  fighting  spirit  that  they  had 
exhibited  in  British  waters  ;  they  had  to  endure  months  of 
monotonous  boredom,  broken  only  occasionally  by  a 
short  sharp  burst  of  excitement,  such  as  occurred  to  the 
yacht  JEgusa  on  April  13th,  1916. 

This  yacht  (Captain  T.  P.  Walker,  R.N.R.)  received 
a  wireless  intercepted  message  that  about  8  a.m.  a  sub- 
marine had  been  sighted  in  lat.  37°  18'  N.,  long.  15°  57' E. 
The  yEgusa  at  once  proceeded  towards  this  position 
and  shortly  after  1  p.m.,  before  arriving  there,  received 
news  that  the  enemy  had  apparently  gone  towards 
the  Adriatic.  Captain  Walker  assumed  that  her  track 
would  be  to  the  north-east,  and  shaped  his  course  accord- 
ingly, hoping  to  catch  her  before  sunset.  At  5.35  p.m. 
a  steamer  was  observed  about  five  miles  off,  and  almost 
immediately  afterwards  a  submarine  was  seen  coming 
away  from  the  steamer.  The  submarine  fired  a  torpedo, 
which  caused  the  ship  to  heel  over  and  sink.  In  the 
meantime  the  Mgusa  had  opened  a  deliberate  fire  at 
8,000  yards.  The  enemy  was  making  off  at  full  speed  on 
the  surface  in  an  easterly  direction,  and  soon  submerged, 
thus  escaping.  A  fortnight  later  the  Mgusa  was  lost  off 
Malta,  having  been  either  torpedoed  or  mined. 

During  the  early  months  of  1916  the  submarine  menace 
in  the  Mediterranean  developed  apace.  Some  idea  of  the 
success  that  fell  to  the  enemy  may  be  obtained  from  the 
record  of  U35  during  the  month  of  June  of  that  year. 
This  craft  had  changed  her  commander,  Kophamel  having 
been  succeeded  by  Arnauld  de  la  Periere,  a  German  naval 
officer  whose  father  was  French  and  had  fought  against 
Germany  in  the  Franco-Prussian  War.  This  submarine 
officer,  owing  to  the  thoroughness  of  his  work  in  the 
Mediterranean,  earned  a  high  reputation  among  his  fellow 
countrymen.  He  sank  no  fewer  than  forty-one  ships 
between  June  10th  and  29th,  twenty  of  them  being 
steamers  and  twenty-one  sailing-craft. 

In  the  middle  of  June,  in  order  to  keep  abreast  of  the 
mine-sweeping  necessities  in  the  Mediterranean,  six  paddle- 
steamers  (well-known  liitherto  to  excursionists  at  British 
seaside  resorts)  were  collected  at  Falmouth  and  thence 
sent  south.     Many  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  vessels  had  been 


out  in  the  Mediterranean  since  the  early  months  of  the  war 
and  were  needing  a  rest.  There  is  a  sea-saying  that  "  ships 
and  men  always  rot  in  port."  But  it  is  not  less  true  that, 
unless  they  are  both  relieved  at  the  end  of  a  definite 
time,  they  will  go  to  pieces.  The  crews  had  not  been  able 
to  visit  their  homes  and  relations  for  a  long  while,  whereas 
their  brethren  serving  in  the  waters  of  the  British  Isles 
had  been  able  to  get  a  few  days'  leave  at  least  twice  a 
year.  On  July  28th,  1916,  the  first  group  of  a  dozen 
trawlers  was  ordered  home  from  the  Mediterranean  so  that 
the  crews  might  be  rested  and  the  ships  refitted,  and 
further  groups  were  to  be  sent  home  in  the  same  way  as 
opportunity  offered.  To  replace  these,  another  dozen 
craft  were  sent  out  from  Falmouth  and  Portland  at  the 
end  of  July.  The  first  of  the  home-coming  trawlers  began 
to  reach  Falmouth  at  the  beginning  of  October  from 
Mudros,  and  proceeded  to  Lowestoft  for  refit  and  some 
of  them  were  afterwards  sent  to  the  White  Sea.  Thus 
from  the  Dardanelles  to  the  north  of  Russia  the  trawlers 
extended  their  daily  duties.  Similarly  with  the  drifters 
which  had  been  out  for  a  long  time,  being  based  on  Mudros. 
In  November  orders  were  issued  to  select  good  steel  drifters 
from  the  English  patrol  bases  and  to  send  them  to  Fal- 
mouth, where  they  were  fitted  with  guns,  nets,  depth 
charges,  bombs,  and  one  month's  stores.  They  then 
proceeded  to  Mudros  via  Gibraltar.  These  steel  craft 
were  to  relieve  twenty-four  wooden  drifters  which  were 
directed  to  return  to  England. 

As  further  additions  were  made  to  the  auxiliary  defence 
force  in  the  Mediterranean,  so  also  did  the  enemy  continue 
to  maintain  his  activity. 

Thus  the  contest  went  on  between  the  submarine  and 
anti-submarine.  The  Malta  Auxiliary  Patrol  craft  were 
doing  their  best  to  make  it  safe  for  the  transports  outward 
and  homeward  bound,  but  it  was  a  vast  undertaking. 
From  Malta  to  Cerigotto  Channel  is  a  distance  of  420  miles, 
and  this  transport  route  was  patrolled  by  the  trawlers 
to  the  east,  and  from  Malta  to  the  westward  as  far  as 
Pantellaria,  a  further  130  miles.  Other  trawlers  as  well 
as  some  paddlers,  were  engaged  in  mine-sweeping  ;  M.L.s 
and  trawlers  were  patrolling  off  the  Maltese  coast ;  whilst 
other  trawlers  still,  with  some  armed  yachts,  were  busy 
doing  escort  work.  Such  was  the  position  at  the  beginning 


of  1917,  a  year  that  was  to  witness  a  record  number  of 
sinkings.  For  Malta  it  began  badly  enough,  for  on 
January  9th,  1917,  H.M.S.  Cornwallis,  which  had  fired 
the  first  shell  on  the  first  day's  bombardment  of  the  outer 
forts  of  the  Dardanelles  and  took  part  in  that  campaign 
for  a  longer  period  than  any  other  battleship,  was  tor- 
pedoed and  sunk  by  a  submarine  off  Malta.  There  was 
no  respite  for  anyone  from  the  peril  of  the  torpedo. 
Battleship  or  transport,  armed  yacht  or  trawler,  it  was 
all  the  same.  Ships  and  men  of  all  sorts  were  doing  their 
best,  but  Germany  had  sent  her  very  best  U-boat  officers 
to  the  Mediterranean,  and  these  submarines,  besides  their 
ability  to  become  invisible,  were  also  better  armed  on  the 
surface  than  were  our  small  craft,  suffering  from  the  unsatis- 
fied demands  of  the  new  British  armies  for  equipment. 
Arnauld  de  la  Periere,  the  "  star  turn  "  of  the  enemy 
flotilla,  was  a  believer  in  attacking  his  victims  by  long- 
distance gunnery  ;  and  because  of  his  gun's  superiority 
of  range  he  could  do  pretty  much  as  he  liked.  It  may 
now  be  confessed  that  the  information  which  these  submar- 
ines possessed  of  the  tracks  of  the  British  merchant  ships 
was  remarkably  accurate,  since  they  had  little  difficulty 
in  finding  their  prey.  That  having  been  done,  the  rest  was 
easy,  and  many  a  mercantile  officer  was  compelled  to  see 
his  ship  floundering  in  her  death  agony  whilst  on  his  way 
to  Cattaro  as  a  prisoner  of  war. 



During  the  early  months  of  1915  the  German  Admiralty 
Staff,  impressed  by  the  freedom  of  communications  which 
the  Allies  were  enjoying  in  the  Mediterranean,  and  particu- 
larly by  the  possibilities  which  resided  in  the  attack  on  the 
Dardanelles,  had  been  studying  the  situation  in  southern 
waters.  It  was  assumed  that  the  Allies  would  be  unpre- 
pared for  an  extension  of  the  submarine  campaign  and 
that,  at  first,  counter-measures,  such  as  were  being 
developed  in  home  waters,  would  be  lacking.  Moreover, 
the  geographical  formation  of,  and  high  visibility  in,  the 
Mediterranean  were  regarded  as  favouring  submarine 
operations.  Arrangements  were  accordingly  made,  as 
has  been  indicated  in  the  preceding  chapter,  to  send 
six  small  "  B  "  submarines  and  four  boats  of  the  "  C  " 
class  by  rail  in  sections  to  Pola  and  to  put  them 
together  at  the  Austrian  port.  Towards  the  end  of  May 
the  sinking  of  H.M.S.  Triumph  and  H.M.S.  Majestic 
encouraged  the  enemy  to  further  efforts.  Kapitan-Leut- 
nant  Otto  Hersing  volunteered  to  take  U21  round  from  the 
North  Sea  to  the  Mediterranean  in  order  to  prove  the 
feasibility  of  submarines  making  so  long  a  journey, 
unattended,  under  war  conditions.  The  journey  was 
successfully  completed,  and  U21  was  followed  by  other 

The  news  of  the  sinking  of  the  transport  Royal  Edward 
on  August  13th,  with  the  loss  of  132  lives,  reached  Germany 
at  a  moment  when  a  fierce  controversy  between  the  naval 
and  civil  authorities  was  proceeding  as  to  the  wisdom 
of  antagonising  neutrals,  and  particularly  the  Americans, 
by  attacks  on  merchant  shipping  round  the  British  Isles. 
On  September  18th,  as  already  stated,  the  order  limiting 
the  operation  of  submarines  in  home  waters  was  issued, 
and  the  scene  of  activity  shifted  to  the  Mediterranean. 



Events  had  convinced  the  Germans  that  the  Mediter- 
ranean offered  favourable  conditions  for  attacking  the 
communications  of  the  Alhes.  On  September  4th  the 
Natal  Transport  (4,107  tons)  had  been  destroyed.  This 
vessel  was  on  passage  from  Bombay  to  Liverpool  with  a 
general  cargo.  She  had  left  Port  Said  early  in  the  after- 
noon of  September  2nd  and,  in  view  of  the  rumours  that 
submarines  had  appeared  in  the  Mediterranean,  a  sharp 
lookout  was  kept.  When  the  ship  had  been  at  sea  two 
days  and  was  off  Gavdo  Island,  Crete,  the  chief  officer 
(Mr.  J.  T.  Jones)  heard  the  sound  of  a  gun,  and  looking 
astern,  saw  a  shot  drop  into  the  sea  about  one  mile  away. 
A  submarine  was  then  observed  three  or  four  miles  astern. 
The  master  (Mr.  W.  C.  Davison)  was  in  his  cabin  on  the 
bridge,  and  at  once  took  charge  on  hearing  the  firing, 
ordering  a  full  head  of  steam.  Two  more  shots  followed, 
one  astern  and  the  other  ahead  of  the  vessel,  and  then 
the  forecastle  head  was  hit,  the  projectile  penetrating  the 
two  decks  and  entering  the  fore  peak.  The  unequal  struggle 
had  lasted  about  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  and  Captain 
Davison,  responsible  for  the  lives  of  the  crew  of  thirty- 
three  hands,  felt  that  he  had  no  alternative  but  to  stop. 
The  submarine  continued  firing  while  the  crew  were  taking 
to  the  boats,  but  they  got  away  safely.  While  the  ship 
was  being  abandoned,  another  submarine  rose  to  the 
surface  two  or  three  miles  away  and  fired  a  rocket  signal 
to  her  companion  and  firing  ceased.  As  the  boats  pulled 
away  to  the  north,  the  Natal  TransjJort — which  had  been 
holed  in  many  places — presented  a  sad  spectacle  ;  she  had 
a  list  to  port  and  smoke  was  issuing  from  the  ventilators 
of  the  holds.  In  the  darkness  the  boats  proceeded  toward 
the  coast  of  Crete,  and,  with  assistance  sent  to  them  by 
the  British  Consul  at  Canea,  the  officers  and  men  got 

The  destruction  of  the  Natal  Transport  was  followed 
on  September  7th  by  the  sinking  of  the  Caroni  (2,652  tons), 
which  was  torpedoed  fifteen  miles  west  from  Chassiron 
in  the  Bay  of  Biscay.  She  was  shelled  as  the  evening  was 
closing  in,  and  the  crew  were  left  to  their  fate  fifteen 
miles  from  land.  The  Mora  (3,047  tons)  was  destroyed 
by  gunfire  on  the  following  day  sixty-eight  miles  W. 
by  S.  from  Belle  Isle  off  the  Brittany  coast,  and  on 
the   9th   the    Cornubia  (1,736   tons)   met   the    same   end 


seventy-five  miles  S.E.  by  S.  from  Cartagena.  After 
sailing  and  pulling  for  twenty-eight  hours  in  a  rough  sea, 
with  a  high  wind,  the  crew  landed  at  Puerto  de  Mazarron. 
These  three  ships  fell  the  victims  to  submarines  which 
were  outward  bound  to  the  Mediterranean.  Ten  days 
later  the  transport  Ramazan  (3,477  tons),  carrying  Indian 
troops,  was  shelled  and  sunk  off  Cerigotto  Island  with  a 
loss  of  315  lives,  including  314  Indians.  The  Linkmoor 
(4,306  tons)  was  destroyed  off  Cape  Matapan  less  than 
twenty-four  hours  later.  Then  came  the  sinking  of  the 
H.  C.  Henry  (4,219  tons)  in  almost  the  same  position  on 
the  28th,  and  the  Haydn  (3,923  tons)  went  down  off  Crete 
on  the  29th.  The  last-named  vessel  was  bound  from 
Karachi  to  Glasgow.  The  crew,  under  orders  from  the 
enemy  craft,  left  the  ship  in  two  boats  as  darkness  fell. 
The  submarine,  having  completed  her  work,  disappeared 
without  offering  assistance.  The  master  (Mr.  J.  W. 
Learmouth)  decided  to  remain  in  the  vicinity  until  the 
next  day,  when  it  was  agreed  that  both  boats  should  steer 
for  the  nearest  British  port  on  the  homeward  voyage,  a 
distance  of  five  hundred  miles.  During  the  following 
night  the  boats  lost  sight  of  each  other.  Captain  Lear- 
mouth's  boat  was  picked  up  on  October  3rd  and  brought 
into  Malta.  The  remainder  of  the  crew  had  been  in  their 
open  boat  for  forty-eight  hours  before  they  were  rescued 
by  the  s.s.  Trafalgar  and  landed  at  Port  Said. 

These  events  occurred  during  the  period  when  the  enemy 
was  reconsidering  the  submarine  campaign  in  the  light 
of  American  protests,  and  with  the  close  of  September  he 
determined  to  concentrate  his  resources  on  an  attack  upon 
the  lines  of  communication  of  the  Allies  in  the  Mediter- 
ranean. Henceforward  British  and  other  seamen  were 
confronted  with  dangers  in  the  Mediterranean  resembling 
those  with  which  events  had  made  them  familiar  in  home 
waters.  The  Germans  had  learnt  that  submarines  could 
make  the  long  passage  from  the  North  Sea  to  these 
southern  waters,  and  every  available  craft  of  suitable 
design  was  dispatched  to  spread  destruction  in  the 

With  the  opening  of  the  month  of  October  the  sub- 
marine campaign  in  southern  waters  began  in  deadly 
earnest,  with  dire  results  to  British  shipping  and  British 
merchant  seamen.     In  all  ten  ships  were  accounted  for  by 


the  enemy  and  thirty-five  Hves  were  lost  during  that  month. 
On  the  2nd  the  Sailor  Prince  (3,144  tons)  was  intercepted 
off  Cape  Sidero,  Crete.  Though  the  ship  was  forty-eight 
miles  from  land,  the  crew  were  ordered  to  take  to  the  boats, 
but  fortunately  eight  hours  later  they  were  rescued  by  the 
s.s.  Borulos.  As  soon  as  he  got  on  board  the  master  of 
the  Sailor  Prince  (Mr.  J.  Chilvers)  told  the  story  of  his 
experiences,  confident  that  he  had  nothing  more  to  fear. 
That  the  submarine  was  still  watching  the  course  of  events 
became  apparent,  however,  about  two  hours  later,  when 
she  made  an  attack  on  the  Borulos.  The  steamer  had  on 
board  about  three  hundred  passengers,  including  a  good 
many  women  and  children,  and  when  the  submarine  re- 
vealed its  intention  a  panic  broke  out,  some  persons 
jumping  overboard.  Captain  Chilvers  immediately  went 
to  the  bridge  and  hoisted  a  signal  stating  that  the  vessel 
carried  passengers,  including  women  and  children.  The 
Greek  flag  was  afterwards  hoisted,  and  then  the  sub- 
marine closed  in.  In  the  meantime  as  many  passengers 
as  possible  had  been  rescued  from  the  water  and  placed 
on  board  the  enemy  craft,  but  it  was  afterwards  found  that 
twenty-five  had  been  drowned  in  spite  of  the  efforts  of 
two  British  firemen,  named  Barker  and  Crocker,  who  lost 
their  lives  in  endeavouring  to  save  women  and  children 
from  drowning.  Before  the  submarine  could  carry  out 
its  apparent  purpose  of  sinking  the  Borulos,  the  second 
officer  of  that  ship  bore  the  visiting-card  of  Prince  Mahmoud 
to  the  commander,  at  the  same  time  telling  him  that  the 
Prince  and  his  family  were  on  board.  He  also  informed 
him  that  there  were  Greek  passengers  in  the  Borulos 
and  appealed  to  him  to  spare  the  ship.  Greece,  though 
a  small  country,  was  neutral ;  the  Borulos  was  spared 
and  reached  Alexandria  without  further  incident. 

The  Arabian  (2,744  tons)  was  sunk  on  the  same  day  as 
the  Sailor  Prince,  and  the  Craigston  (2,617  tons)  two 
days  later,  and  then  on  the  5th  the  Bursfield  (4,037  tons) 
was  overhauled  by  a  submarine  seventy  miles  west  of 
Cape  Matapan.  The  master  (Mr.  A.  L.  Hunt),  the  fourth 
engineer,  a  messroom  steward,  and  a  fireman  were  killed 
by  gunfire  during  the  chase  which  took  place  before  the 
vessel  was  overtaken  by  the  enemy. 

The  ordeal  to  which  merchant  seamen  had  been  con- 
demned by  the  enemy  is  reflected  in  the  following  sum- 


maries  of  the  records  of  steamships  sunk  between  October 
6th  and  October  23rd,  when  the  Marquette  (7,057  tons) 
went  down  with  a  loss  of  twenty-nine  hves. 

The  Silvcrash  (3,753  tons)  was  overhauled  by  a  sub- 
marine on  the  6th  when  about  190  miles  east  from  Malta. 
The  master  (Mr.  John  Parry  Jones)  decided  that  escape 
was  impossible.  The  crew  took  to  the  boats,  which  were 
afterwards  picked  up  by  the  steamer  Remembrance. 

The  Scaivby  (3,658  tons)  was  stopped  by  a  submarine 
at  2.30  p.m.  on  the  same  day  when  220  miles  from  the 
nearest  land — I\Ialta.  The  crew  were  ordered  to  abandon 
ship,  and  the  submarine,  having  exploded  a  bomb  by  the 
vessel's  side,  went  off  after  another  steamer.  As  there 
appeared  some  hope  that  the  Scawhy  might  not  sink, 
the  master  (Mr.  M.  M.  A.  Fisker)  ordered  the  boats  to  stand 
by.  The  submarine,  observing  the  intention  to  reboard 
the  vessel,  returned  and  began  firing  with  rifles  at  the 
boats  as  they  were  approaching  the  ship.  Nothing  fur- 
ther could  be  done,  so  the  boats  set  sail  in  the  direction 
of  land.  They  were  picked  up  the  following  morning — 
one  at  6  o'clock  and  the  other  at  9  o'clock. 

The  Halizones  (5,093  tons)  was  intercepted  by  a  sub- 
marine off  Cape  Martello,  Crete,  on  the  7th.  The  master 
(Mr.  W.  J.  Eynon)  put  on  full  speed,  but,  after  seven 
shots  had  been  fired  by  the  enemy,  gave  up  the  hopeless 
effort  to  escape,  and  the  crew  were  ordered  to  abandon 
ship  when  120  miles  from  the  nearest  practical  landing- 
place.  After  being  in  their  boats  for  seventy-two  hours, 
they  reached  land  on  Sunday  afternoon,  October  10th. 

The  Thorpwood  (3,184  tons)  was  also  off  Cape  Martello 
when,  on  the  morning  of  October  8th,  she  was  chased  by 
a  submarine,  which  flew  the  French  colours  until  the 
first  shot  had  been  fired,  when  the  German  ensign  was 
hoisted.  The  pursuit  was  a  short  one.  The  master 
(Mr.  Henry  V.  Adams),  after  consulting  with  his  officers, 
decided  that  escape  was  impossible.  Though  there  was 
no  landing-place  nearer  than  125  miles,  the  crew  were 
ordered  to   abandon   ship. 

The  Apollo  (3,774  tons)  was  off  Gavdo  Island,  Crete, 
on  October  9th,  when  she  was  overhauled  by  a  sub- 
marine. The  master  (Mr.  M.  J.  Redmond)  had  no  recourse 
but  to  stop  the  ship.  The  nearest  land  was  sixty-five 
miles    distant.     The    crew  was   nevertheless   ordered    to 


take  to  their  small  boats,  and  the  only  consideration 
extended  to  them  was  permission  to  take  with  them  a 
chart  and  provisions.  One  boat  was  forty-nine  hours 
before  reaching  land,  and  the  other  was  fifty-two  hours. 

During  November  the  enemy's  anticipation  of  reaping 
a  rich  harvest  in  the  Mediterranean  was  partially  con- 
firmed. In  addition  to  nine  ships,  of  9,677  tons,  which 
were  sunk  by  mines  in  various  areas,  with  a  loss  of  no 
fewer  than  ninety-three  lives,  the  submarines  operating 
in  the  Mediterranean  accounted  for  twenty-three  vessels, 
of  84,816  tons,  with  casualties  numbering  twenty- five. 
Consequently  during  those  weeks  the  British  Mercantile 
Marine  was  deprived  of  thirty-two  vessels  (94,493  tons). 
In  addition,  submarines  molested  eleven  ships,  of  64,460 
tons.  The  experience  of  the  Woodfield  (3,584  tons) 
furnished  evidence  of  the  effective  use  which  could  have 
been  made  of  long-range  defensive  armament  if  it  had 
been  available  at  this  period.  This  vessel  carried  only  a 
small  gun,  and  the  attacking  submarine  kept  at  a  safe 
distance.  The  Woodfield  (master,  Mr.  Robert  Hughes)  was 
on  her  way  from  Avonmouth  to  Malta  when,  in  the  early 
morning  of  the  3rd,  the  stillness  was  broken  by  the  sound  of 
gun-fire,  two  shots  passing  across  the  vessel's  bow.  Far 
away  in  the  distance,  Captain  Hughes  then  saw  a  submarine 
steaming  towards  him.  The  vessel  was  at  once  put  stern 
on  to  the  enemv. 

As  soon  as  the  merchant  captain's  intention  to  evade 
capture  became  apparent  to  the  commander  of  the 
submarine,  he  opened  fire  again  and  for  two  hours  the 
fusillade  continued,  the  British  merchant  captain,  un- 
daunted by  the  odds  against  him,  still  holding  on  his 
course.  The  ship  was  hit  several  times  ;  seven  men 
were  killed  and  the  carpenter  was  fatally  wounded.  When 
Captain  Hughes,  who,  with  thirteen  others,  had  been 
wounded,  realised  that  his  vessel  was  in  a  sinking  condition, 
he  ordered  the  port  and  starboard  lifeboats  to  get  aAvay. 
He  had  in  his  charge,  in  addition  to  his  crew  of  thirty-four 
hands,  thirty-one  passengers,  and  seven  of  these  were 
among  the  injured.  All  who  remained  alive  got  away 
safely  in  the  two  boats.  When  everyone  had  left  the  ship 
except  the  captain,  the  gunner,  and  a  soldier,  the  sub- 
marine ceased  firing,  submerged,  and  came  up  on  the 
starboard  beam,     A  torpedo  Mas  then  fired,  which  struck 


the  vessel  amidship.  Not,  however,  until  two  more  shots 
had  been  fired  did  the  Woodjield  sink.  The  master  and 
his  two  companions  were  the  last  to  leave  the  ship ; 
they  took  refuge  on  a  raft,  which  was  picked  up  by  the 
second  mate's  boat,  which  safely  reached  the  coast  of 
Morocco.  Captain  Hughes  had  not  succeeded  in  saving 
his  ship,  but  he  had  at  least  sold  it  at  a  high  price  in  view 
of  the  large  number  of  shells,  besides  a  torpedo,  which 
the  enemy  had  had  to  expend.  The  incident  took  place 
out  of  sight  of  land,  about  forty  miles  east  of  Ceuta. 
On  the  same  day  the  Woolwich  (2,936  tons)  was  captured 
and  destroyed  100  miles  south  from  Cape  Sidero,  Crete, 
and  but  for  the  manner  in  which  the  transports  Jajjanese 
Prince  (4,876  tons)  and  the  3Iercian  (6,305  tons)  were 
handled  on  the  same  day,  these  two  vessels  would  have 
shared  the  same  fate,  with  probably  heavy  loss  of  life. 

The  escape  of  the  Japanese  Prince  illustrated  what 
could  be  done  by  good  seamanship,  for  the  vessel  was 
unarmed  and  had  no  wireless.  For  over  four  hours  the 
submarine  chased  this  transport.  She  fired  about  forty- 
five  shells,  but  fortunately  none  of  them  caused  casual- 
ties, although  many  pieces  of  shell  were  picked  up  on  the 
decks.  This  immunity  was  due  to  the  skill  with  which 
the  master  (Mr.  A.  H.  Jenkins)  manoeuvred  his  ship, 
earning  recognition  at  the  hands  of  the  Admiralty.  He 
was  awarded  a  lieutenant's  commission  in  the  R.N.R., 
and  he,  as  well  as  the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  C.  James),  was 
mentioned  in  despatches.  Speed  and  skilful  manoeuvring 
also  saved  the  Mercian  (Captain  Walker).  This  ship, 
like  the  Japanese  Prince,  was  steaming  in  the  Mediter- 
ranean, proceeding  with  500  troops  from  Gibraltar  to 
Malta.  At  2.15  p.m.  an  enemy  submarine  was  sighted 
about  two  miles  on  the  starboard  quarter.  The  sub- 
marine immediately  opened  fire  with  two  guns,  one  being 
a  3-4-inch,  the  first  shot  striking  the  foremast,  the  second 
the  mainmast,  and  the  third  wrecked  the  wireless  tele- 
graph house.  The  master  then  zigzagged  his  ship  to  try 
and  dodge  the  shells.  About  this  time  the  master  sent 
the  quartermaster  from  the  wheel  to  find  out  the  damage 
done  to  the  wireless  telegraph  house  ;  this  man  did  not 
return,  and  in  consequence  the  master  had  to  take  the 
wheel  for  over  an  hour  of  the  action  until  relieved  by 
Private  Thompson.     The  master  ordered  the  two  Maxims 


to  open  fire  as  soon  as  the  submarine  came  within  range, 
but  these  naturally  were  of  small  use  against  a  3-4-inch 
gun.  The  submarine  fired  about  100  shells,  of  which 
twenty  to  thirty  struck  the  ship,  causing  twenty-three 
deaths  and  fifty-five  wounded.  At  3  p.m.  a  patrol-vessel 
hove  in  sight,  and  soon  afterwards  the  submarine  ceased 
firing  and  disappeared.  The  master,  who  was  awarded  the 
D.S.C.,  was  ably  seconded  by  the  chief  engineer  and  his  staff. 
Five  ships,  including  the  transport  Moorina  (4,994 
tons),  were  attacked  by  submarines  on  the  5th.  The 
escape  of  the  Cittj  of  York  (7,834  tons)  and  the  Huntsman 
(7,460  tons)  was  due  to  the  effective  use  which  was  made 
of  the  two  guns  with  which  these  vessels  had  been  armed  ; 
while  the  Lady  Plymouth  (3,521  tons)  got  away  owing  to  her 
speed.  She  was  fired  on  again  on  the  following  day  as 
she  was  proceeding  along  the  coast  of  Algiers,  but  once 
more  showed  her  heels  to  the  enemy.  The  Pola  (3,061 
tons)  also  escaped  by  good  fortune  and  good  seamanship 
off  Tukush  Island,  Algeria,  on  the  6th,  when  four  other 
vessels,  including  the  Lumina  (5,950  tons),  which  was 
defensively  armed,  were  destroyed. 

On  the  following  day  an  enemy  submarine  in  the  course 
of  six  hours  sank  off  Cape  Martello,  Crete,  two  good 
British  vessels  of  an  aggregate  of  nearly  8,000  tons.  The 
weather  was  fine,  the  sea  was  fairly  smooth,  and  there 
was  little  wind.  By  chance  the  two  ships  steamed  within 
the  area  under  the  observation  of  the  submarine  under 
these  favourable  conditions  for  attack.  The  Clan 
Macalister  (4,835  tons),  on  passage  from  Liverpool  to 
Indian  ports  with  a  general  cargo  of  about  6,600  tons, 
was  proceeding  at  full  speed,  at  about  10  knots,  and  was 
some  120  miles  south-east  from  Cape  Martello  when  her 
master  (Lieutenant-Commander  J.  W.  Taylor,  R.N.R., 
retired)  noticed  a  vessel  sinking  about  eight  miles  away. 
While  heading  in  the  steamer's  direction  in  accordance 
with  the  immemorial  rule  observed  by  seamen  of  what 
Nelson  described  as  "  the  polite  nations,"  he  saw  the 
vessel  disappear.  Two  minutes  later  his  eye  was  arrested 
by  what  he  took  to  be  the  bow  wave  of  a  submarine, 
some  seven  miles  away  on  a  south-south-easterly  bearing. 
Putting  on  full  speed,  Captain  Taylor  went  off  to  the 
north-north-west,  placing  the  enemy  astern  of  him. 

In  the  stokehold  and  engine-room  all  the  hands  were]  "CLAN  MACALISTER"  AND  "CARIA"  SUNK  185 

working  hard  to  keep  a  full  head  of  steam,  but,  in 
spite  of  their  efforts,  the  submarine  gradually  gained 
on  the  Clan  Macalister.  When  about  two  and  a  half 
miles  distant  the  enemy  began  firing,  using  shell  first 
of  all  and  afterwards  shell  and  shrapnel  promiscuously. 
The  vessel  was  hit  several  times,  but  as  the  damage 
inflicted  was  not  serious,  Captain  Taylor  ignored  the 
enemy's  signal  to  stop  and  continued  on  his  course. 
For  over  an  hour  and  a  half  the  chase  was  maintained, 
and  then  the  chief  engineer  reported  that  the  lascars 
in  the  stokehold,  frightened  by  the  firing,  to  which  the 
Clan  Macalister  could  make  no  reply,  had  left  their 
stations  and  that  steam  was  rapidly  falling.  The  vessel 
was  by  this  time  being  shelled  at  close  range,  and 
Captain  Taylor  was  forced  to  the  conclusion  that  no- 
thing more  could  be  done  to  save  his  ship.  The  engines 
were  stopped  and  all  hands  were  ordered  to  the  boats, 
the  enemy  continuing  his  bombardment  while  this  was 
being  done.  A  torpedo  finally  settled  the  fate  of  this 
unit  of  the  Clan  Line. 

While  this  ship  was  being  disposed  of,  the  Caria  (3,032 
tons)  came  on  the  scene.  She  was  proceeding  in  ballast 
from  Naples  to  Alexandria,  when  the  second  officer, 
who  was  on  the  bridge,  heard  a  shot  and  at  once  called 
the  master  (Mr.  J.  A.  Wolfe).  A  submarine  was  then 
observed  about  two  points  on  the  starboard  bow,  two  miles 
away,  astern  of  the  Clan  Macalister,  which  was  heading 
on  an  opposite  course  to  the  Caria.  Captain  Wolfe 
became  the  passive  m  itness  of  the  final  phase  of  Captain 
Taylor's  plucky  attempt  to  escape.  While  chasing  the 
Clan  liner,  the  enemy  devoted  attention  also  to  the  other 
merchant  ship.  Having  dispatched  the  Clan  Macalister, 
the  submarine  returned  to  the  Caria,  which,  owing  to  her 
light  condition,  was  able  to  steam  at  considerably  less 
than  full  speed,  the  propeller  being  half  out  of  the  water. 
Captain  Wolfe  had  no  hope  of  escape,  so  the  ship  was 
abandoned  and  forthwith  sunk  by  gunfire.  By  a  happy 
chance  the  boats  of  the  two  ships  fell  in  with  the  steamer 
Frankenfels  on  the  following  morning,  and  thus  the  crews 
reached  Malta  in  safety. 

This  double  success  encouraged  the  enemy  to  hang 
about  off  Cape  Martello,  and  two  days  later  the  Den  of 
Crombie  (4,949  tons),  homeward  bound  from  Far  Eastern 


ports  with  a  general  cargo  of  7,100  tons,  came  in  sight. 
Shots  began  to  fall  near  her,  and  then  the  submarine 
was  observed  on  the  port  beam.  The  Den  of  Crombie 
was  unarmed,  and  the  master  (Mr.  H.  C.  Hemming) 
decided  he  had  no  alternative  but  to  stop.  The  ship 
was  immediately  abandoned,  and  after  the  enemy  had 
fired  about  a  dozen  shots  the  Den  of  Crombie  disappeared 
and  the  submarine  made  off.  The  four  boats  kept  com- 
pany during  the  day.  After  darkness  had  closed  in,  a 
steamer's  lights  were  seen  approaching.  Captain  Hemming 
ordered  flares  to  be  burnt,  but  the  strange  vessel,  evidently 
suspicious  that  an  attempt  was  being  made  to  lure  her  to 
destruction,  shut  down  all  lights  and  altered  course  when 
M'ithin  about  a  mile  of  the  chief  officer's  boat  and  dis- 
appeared to  the  eastward,  to  the  dismay  of  the  distressed 
seamen.  During  the  ensuing  night  the  boats  lost  touch 
with  each  other  and  became  separated.  Fortunately,  on 
the  following  morning  the  troop  transport  Royal  George 
hove  in  sight  of  the  chief  officer's  boat,  and  an  hour 
later  came  across  Captain  Hemming  and  his  companions. 
The  boats  of  the  second  and  third  officers  were  also  picked 
up,  with  the  result  that  all  the  crew  of  the  Den  of  Crombie 
got  ashore. 

On  the  same  day  the  master  (Mr.  Howard  Tindle)  of 
the  Sir  Richard  Awdry  (2,234  tons)  had  the  mortification 
of  being  compelled  to  surrender  his  vessel  off  Gavdo 
Island,  Crete.  He  was  on  passage  from  Saigon  to  Mar- 
seilles with  a  cargo  of  rice,  and  all  had  gone  well  for  over 
a  month,  when  he  fell  in  with  the  submarine  which  was 
to  bring  about  the  destruction  of  the  ship  under  his  com- 
mand. Captain  Tindle,  on  observing  the  enemy,  altered 
course  in  the  hope  of  getting  away.  The  submarine  then 
began  firing  somewhat  wildly.  A  signal  for  help  was 
promptly  sent  out,  and  as  events  were  to  prove  would 
have  resulted  in  saving  the  ship  but  for  circumstances 
beyond  Captain  Tindle's  control.  At  last  the  submarine 
obtained  the  range,  with  the  result  that  the  wireless 
aerials  were  destroyed  ;  other  shots  passed  through  the 
funnel  and  ventilators  and  shrapnel  burst  around  the 
bridge.  Captain  Tindle  was  still  maintaining  a  full  head 
of  steam,  when  the  Chinamen  down  below  became  panic- 
stricken  and  deserted  the  stokehold.  Speed  at  once  began 
to  fall  off,  so  the  ship  was  stopped.     In  spite  of  this  action 

CH.  VII]  A   FOUR  DAYS'   REST  187 

the    submarine    continued    firing    and,    drawing   in,    dis- 
charged six  shots  at  point-blank  range  into  the  engine- 
room.     The  chief  and  fourth  mates  were  sHghtly  wounded. 
The  Chinese  seamen  by  this  time  had  got  beyond  control, 
and  all  of  them,  with  the  exception  of  four,  took  to  the 
boats   without   waiting  for   orders.     Captain   Tindle   had 
to  admit  that  the  position  was  hopeless,  so  he  and  his 
officers  and  the  four  remaining  Chinamen  passed  over  the 
side  into  a  small  boat  as  the  ship  was  settling  down  by 
the  stern.     Though  the  Sir  Richard  Awdry  was  not  a  large 
vessel,  she  was  sinking  slowly,  so  the  Germans  discharged 
a  torpedo,  which  caused  her  to  heel  over  and  disappear 
in  seven  minutes.     The  French  trawler  Marie  Frederic, 
in  response  to  the  signal  for  help,  appeared  on  the  scene 
at  this  moment  and  drove  away  the  enemy  ;    but,  owing 
to  the  conduct  of  the  Chinese  stokers,  she  arrived  too  late 
to  save  the  ship  from  destruction.     Though  they  little 
deserved   their   good    fortune,    all    these    men,    except    a 
Chinese   cook,    were   saved.     On   the   following   day   the 
Californian  (6,223  tons)  was  torpedoed  ofl'  Cape  Matapan. 
She  was  steaming  at  12  knots  at  the  time,  and,  unlike 
the    other    vessels    mentioned,    was    under    escort,    being 
accompanied     by    a    French    torpedo-boat.      When    the 
Californian  was  struck  at  7.45  a.m.  a  French  patrol-boat 
took  her  in  tow,  and  there  seemed  some  chance  that  she 
might  get  into  port,  but  unhappily  shortly  after  1  o'clock 
the    rope    broke.     Efforts    were    being    made    to    resume 
towing,  when  a  second  torpedo  hit  the  ship  and  she  at 
once   began   to   make   water  fast.     The   master   (Mr.    W. 
Masters),  with  his  crew,  remained  by  the  ship  for  seven 
hours  from  the  time  that  the  first  attack  was  made,  but 
their  devotion  and  all  the  efforts  of  the  French  seamen 
were  unavailing.     Fortunately,  in  spite  of  the  extensive 
damage  done  by  the  torpedo,  only  one  life  was  lost. 

Four  days  passed,  during  which  British  merchant 
shipping  in  the  Mediterranean  was  unmolested,  and  then, 
on  November  14th,  the  losses  began  once  more.  The 
Treneglos  (3,886  tons)  was  proceeding  at  full  speed  seventy 
miles  west-south-west  from  Gavdo  Island,  off  Crete,  when 
a  terrific  explosion  occurred  in  the  engine-room,  killing 
outright  the  third  engineer  and  two  firemen,  and  smashing 
the  port  lifeboat.  It  was  at  once  apparent  that  the  ship  was 
doomed.     The  master  (Mr.  S.  P.  Beale)  ordered  the  boats 


to  get  away  as  quickly  as  possible,  and  hardly  were  they 
clear  of  the  ship  when  she  sank.  From  first  to  last 
nothing  was  seen  of  the  submarine.  On  the  following 
day,  within  a  few  miles  of  the  spot  where  the  Treneglos  had 
disappeared,  the  Orange  Prince  (3,583  tons)  was  also 
torpedoed  without  warning,  and  in  this  case  also  three 
lives  were  lost.  The  vessel  was  going  at  full  speed  when 
the  torpedo  burst  into  the  stokehold,  killing  three  men. 
Everyone,  except  the  master  (Mr.  J.  Holloway)  and  the 
chief  officer,  took  to  the  boats,  and  a  few  minutes  later 
a  second  torpedo  struck  the  ship.  Captain  Hollow^ay 
and  the  chief  officer  had  barely  time  to  escape  before 
their  vessel  disappeared  below  the  water. 

Little  more  than  half  the  month  had  passed,  and  already 
the  enemy  had  destroyed  thirteen  British  merchant  ships, 
and  there  was  no  respite  for  British  seamen.  On  Novem- 
ber 18th  the  Enosis  (3,409  tons)  came  under  a  heavy 
shell-fire  when  150  miles  east-south-east  from  Malta.  A 
submarine  was  observed  on  the  starboard  beam  flying  no 
flag  and  bearing  no  number  or  other  distinguishing  mark. 
The  range  was  soon  obtained  ;  one  shot  fell  on  the  fore- 
castle just  as  the  men  had  left  it,  and  another  struck  the 
bridge,  mortally  wounding  the  master  (Mr.  Alfred  Bowling). 
The  chief  officer  (Mr.  J.  Condon)  was  attending  to  lowering 
the  boats,  but  he  at  once  went  to  the  assistance  of  Captain 
Bowling ;  the  master  had  been  terribly  injured  and, 
although  still  living,  was  past  human  aid.  As  the  boats 
were  being  put  into  the  water,  another  shell  exploded 
near  the  chart-room,  doing  further  damage  and  putting 
the  master  out  of  his  suffering.  As  soon  as  the  boats 
were  clear  of  the  Enosis,  she  was  torpedoed  out  of  hand 
and  sank,  the  body  of  Captain  Bowling  going  down  with 
her.  Though  the  ship  was  destroyed  far  from  land, 
the  crew  fortunately  got  ashore  in  safety.  On  the  19th 
the  Hallamshire  (4,420  tons)  was  torpedoed  without 
warning  when  off  Cerigotto  at  2.20  p.m.  The  submarine 
apparently  stood  by  to  await  events,  and  as  the  vessel 
was  not  sinking  fast  enough,  she  was  attacked  by  shell- 
fire  shortly  after  4  o'clock.  The  submarine  failed  to 
show  any  flag  in  accordance  with  the  rules  of  warfare. 
By  5  o'clock  nothing  was  to  be  seen  of  the  Hallamshire, 
with  her  cargo  of  5,600  tons  of  coal.  A  French  destroyer 
picked   up  the  master  (Mr.   A.   G.   Clark)   and   his  men. 


The  Merganser  (1,905  tons)  met  a  like  end  off  Gozo  on 
November  20th.  The  ship  was  steaming  at  just  under 
10  knots,  but  the  master  (Mr.  J.  T.  Sharp),  in  his  effort 
to  escape,  managed  to  get  13  knots  out  of  her.  Even 
this  speed,  however,  was  not  sufficient  to  take  the  Mer- 
ganser out  of  gun  range.  Once  more  a  French  torpedo- 
boat  was  the  means  of  saving  the  hves  of  the  crew.  After 
an  interval  of  six  days  the  Tringa  (2,154  tons)  was  cap- 
tured thirty  miles  from  Galata  Island  and  sunk  by  gun- 
fire, with  a  loss  of  three  lives  ;  on  the  following  day  the 
Tanis  (3,665  tons)  and  the  Kingsway  (3,647  tons)  were 
sunk  by  gunfire,  the  former  three  miles  north  from 
Zembra  Island,  and  the  latter  off  Cape  Bon,  Tunis. 

The  latter  ship  was  in  ballast,  and  was  making  little  head- 
way owing  to  the  gale  which  was  blowing,  accompanied 
by  high  head  seas.  She  was  on  her  way  from  Malta  to 
Huelva,  Spain,  when  gunfire  was  heard.  The  narrative 
of  events  afterwards  given  by  the  master  (Mr.  Walter 
Langford)  conveys  an  impression  of  the  character  of  the 
ordeal  to  which  British  seamen  were  condemned  : 

"  I  was  in  the  saloon  at  the  time  and  went  on  deck 
immediately.  The  third  officer  met  me  on  the  bridge 
ladder  and  reported  that  a  shot  had  been  fired  which  had 
struck  the  water  about  15  feet  ahead  of  the  ship.  I  ran 
to  the  bridge  and  ordered  him  to  stop  the  engines.  At 
this  time  another  shot  was  fired,  which  passed  a  few  feet 
over  the  ship's  No.  4  derrick.  I  could  see  no  sign  of  any 
submarine  owing  to  the  heavy  sea.  Realising  that  it  was 
impossible  to  escape  when  the  second  shot  was  fired,  I 
blew  three  short  blasts  on  the  whistle  to  indicate  that  my 
engines  were  going  astern,  and  I  immediately  ordered  all 
the  boats  to  be  lowered  and  the  crews  to  get  into  them 
as  quickly  as  possible.  The  firing  ceased  for  about  five 

"  I  ordered  the  chief  officer  to  take  ten  men  into  the 
port  lifeboat  and  to  get  clear.  The  second  officer 
was  directed  to  take  charge  of  the  starboard  lifeboat 
and  took  twelve  men  with  him.  The  remaining  four 
were  told  to  get  into  the  starboard  jolly-boat,  and 
I  got  into  this  myself,  intending  to  change  afterwards 
into  one  of  the  lifeboats.  By  this  time  the  submarine, 
which  was  now  seen  for  the  first  time,  had  come  close 


in  on  the  port  side,  and  before  all  the  crew  had  time  to 
get  into  the  boats  she  fired  three  shots  in  quick  succession 
at  Nos.  2,  8,  and  4  holds.  These  went  right  through  the 
ship — in  one  side  and  out  the  other.  After  considerable 
difficulty,  all  the  crew  got  away  in  one  lifeboat  and  two 
jolly-boats,  the  other  lifeboat  having  been  smashed  by 
the  action  of  the  submarine.  The  submarine  rounded 
the  vessel  twice,  firing  at  her  continually,  and  she  sank 
at  0.30  p.m.  on  the  same  day.  The  submarine  immedi- 
ately disappeared.  She  was  about  250  feet  long,  was 
painted  a  light  bluish-grey  and  was  apparently  quite  new. 
The  gun  appeared  to  be  a  6-inch  howitzer,  mounted  on  a 
pedestal  about  12  feet  abaft  the  conning-tower,  and  seemed 
to  be  fired  from  the  conning-tower,  having  recoil  cylinders 
on  either  side.  No  letters  or  numbers  were  seen,  but  one 
man  in  her  held  a  small  Austrian  hand-flag." 

Captain  Langford  and  his  men  got  ashore  safely.  The 
loss  of  this  ship  was  afterwards  the  subject  of  a  Court  of 
Inquiry,  which  decided  that  "  after  the  first  shot  to  call 
attention  to  the  presence  of  the  enemy  submarine,  this 
was  so  close  that  the  Kingsway,  more  especially  having 
regard  to  the  conditions  of  weather  prevailing  at  the  time 
and  the  lightness  of  the  ship,  could  not  possibly  have 

A  welcome  relief  to  the  rising  record  of  shipping  losses 
was  provided  by  the  spirited  and  successful  fight,  on 
November  23rd,  which  was  made  by  the  City  of  Mar- 
seilles (8,250  tons),  when  on  her  way  from  Liverpool  to 
Bombay  via  Marseilles.  She  had  been  given  a  4-7-inch 
gun,  and  with  this  one  weapon  she  drove  off  the  enemy. 
Three  weeks  earlier  the  Kashgar  (8,840  tons)  had  per- 
formed a  similar  feat,  and  as  already  noted,  the  Antilo- 
chus  (9,039  tons)  had  also  used  her  gun  with  good  effect. 
The  experience  of  the  City  of  Marseilles  supplied  con- 
firmatory evidence  of  the  value  of  such  defensive  arma- 
ment as  the  Admiralty  was  able  to  provide  at  a  time 
when,  owing  to  the  growth  of  the  Army  and  expansion  of 
the  Navy,  there  was  a  serious  shortage  of  guns. 

The  Ellerman  liner  (master,  Mr.  B.  Dowse)  was  steaming 
at  12  knots  at  10  a.m.  when  a  submarine  was  sighted  four 
miles  on  the  port  beam  ;  the  enemy  was  flying  no  colours 
and    made    no    signals.       Captain    Dowse,    realising    the 


peril  in  which  he  stood,  put  on  speed  and  the  ship 
was  soon  steaming  at  16|  knots.  There  seemed  good 
hope  of  bringing  the  submarine  on  the  port  quarter. 
The  passengers  on  board,  as  well  as  the  officers  and  men, 
were  not  unconscious  of  the  emergency  which  had  arisen, 
but  exhibited  praiseworthy  pluck.  There  was  no  other 
vessel  in  sight,  and  unless  the  submarine  was  driven  olT 
reliance  would  have  to  be  placed  on  the  ship's  boats  for 
safety.  A  S.O.S.  call  was  sent  out  by  emergency  code, 
fixing  the  position  of  the  City  of  Marseilles,  in  the  faint 
hope  of  help  being  forthcoming.  The  only  reply  received 
was,  however,  from  an  Italian  hospital  ship,  stating 
that  she  had  no  code,  but  offering  to  stand  by.  As  it  was 
considered  inadvisable  to  send  messages  en  clair,  this 
chivalrous  response  was  not  acknowledged.  If  the  City 
of  Marseilles  was  to  be  saved,  it  had  to  be  by  her  own 

The  duel  between  the  merchant  ship  with  her  one  gun 
and  the  submarine  with  its  concentrated  offensive  power 
opened  at  a  range  of  about  three  miles.  The  enemy 
fired  about  seven  rounds  at  the  British  vessel  without 
doing  serious  damage,  although  splinters  of  shell  fell  on 
board.  The  British  gun's  crew  made  a  spirited  reply. 
Their  seventh  shot  ricochetted  and  appeared  to  hit  the 
submarine.  The  enemy  craft  at  any  rate  took  a  list  to 
port  and,  turning  round  sharply,  abandoned  the  chase. 
When  last  seen  the  submarine  was  steering  in  a  north- 
easterly direction  and  had  a  list  of  about  25  degrees  to  port, 
which  brought  a  large  area  of  her  starboard  side  out  of 
water.  The  City  of  Marseilles  proceeded  on  her  passage, 
the  passengers  overjoyed  at  the  success  with  which  the 
ship  had  been  handled  and  the  spirit  shown  by  the  men 
manning  her  one  gun. 

On  the  last  two  days  of  the  month  four  more  ships, 
all  of  them  unarmed,  were  destroyed  ;  three  of  them — 
the  Malinche  (1,868  tons),  the  Colenso  (3,861  tons),  and  the 
Langton  Hall  (4,437  tons) — were  sunk  off  Malta,  while  the 
Middleion  (2,560  tons)  was  destroyed  by  gunfire  seventy 
miles  from  Gavdo  Island,  which  had  become  a  favourite 
cruising-ground  with  the  enemy.  The  last  ship  was  on  her 
way  from  Mudros  to  Alexandria,  when  a  suspicious  object 
was  seen  about  three  miles  astern.  At  first  the  master  (Mr. 
H.   Rattray)  was  not  sure  what  it  was.     Then  a  shell 



passed  over  the  ship  and  doubt  was  resolved  into  certainty. 
The  Middleton  at  her  best  could  steam  only  about  7  knots, 
but  nevertheless  Captain  Rattray  held  on  his  course, 
zigzagging  in  order  to  confuse  the  enemy's  fire.  About 
twenty  minutes  after  fire  had  been  opened,  seven  of  the 
crew  were  struck  by  shrapnel,  one  of  them  being  killed  out- 
right. Escape  was  impossible,  so  Captain  Rattray  stopped 
the  ship.  As  soon  as  the  crew  had  taken  to  the  boats, 
the  enemy  sank  the  Middleton  by  gunfire  and  then 
disappeared.  An  appeal  by  the  second  mate  for  bandages 
for  the  injured  men  was  ignored.  Captain  Rattray 
found  himself  in  a  situation  which  called  for  all  his 
resource.  During  the  day  two  of  his  men  died  of  their 
wounds.  It  was  not  until  night  was  falling  that  the 
Clan  Maclaren  hove  in  sight  and  rescued  the  survivors. 
The  casualty  list  was  not,  however,  yet  complete,  for 
another  man  died  on  board  the  Clan  liner  before  she 
reached  Malta. 

The  year  1915  closed  with  a  series  of  tragedies  which 
cost  the  British  Merchant  Navy  twenty-one  ships,  but  still 
more  grievous  was  the  loss  of  419  lives,  of  which  all  but 
three,  caused  by  mine  explosions,  were  traceable  to  the 
operations  of  enemy  submarines  in  the  Mediterranean. 
Apart  from  this  terrible  story  of  the  destruction  of  the 
P.  &  O.  liner  Persia,  which  is  dealt  with  in  a  subsequent 
chapter,  incidents  occurred  which  stand  out  conspicu- 
ously in  the  record  of  the  enemy's  attempt,  at  any  cost 
of  life  and  property,  to  interrupt  the  communications  of 
the  Allies  in  the  Mediterranean.  On  the  first  day  of  the 
month,  the  Clan  Macleod  (4,796  tons)  was  sunk  by  gunfire 
no  less  than  100  miles  east -south-east  from  Malta.  She 
was  on  her  way  home  from  Calcutta  with  a  general  cargo 
of  about  6,000  tons.  The  master  (Mr.  H.  S.  Southward) 
was  steering  towards  Malta  when,  in  the  clear  morning 
light,  the  chief  officer  sighted  smoke  on  the  port  quarter. 
He  assumed  that  it  was  a  destroyer  and,  as  the  enemy 
had  no  surface  craft  at  sea,  nothing  was  to  be  feared. 
About  twenty  minutes  later  a  shot  came  out  of  nowhere, 
falling  short  of  the  Clan  Macleod.  Captain  Southward 
at  once  altered  course  so  as  to  put  the  smoke  patch  well 
astern  of  him,  the  engines  were  opened  out,  and  all  the 
firemen  were  sent  below  in  order  to  get  as  much  steam 
as  possible. 


Though  the  British  merchant  ship  was  unarmed, 
Captain  Southward  was  not  without  hopes  of  saving 
his  ship.  The  submarine  headed  three  or  four  times 
towards  the  vessel's  port  quarter,  firing  as  she  did  so. 
The  shots  fell  ahead,  and  Captain  Southward,  his  deter- 
mination still  firm,  continued  to  manoeuvre  his  ship 
dexterously,  the  submarine  maintaining  a  hot  pursuit. 
It  was  soon  apparent  that  the  enemy  had  the  advantage 
of  speed.  Shortly  before  10  o'clock  she  had  approached 
to  within  half  a  mile  of  the  Clan  Macleod.  She  then  again 
opened  fire,  and  the  eighth  shot  struck  the  vessel.  What 
happened  afterwards  can  be  best  told  in  Captain  South- 
ward's own  words  : 

"  About  this  time  I  realised  that  I  could  not  save  the 
steamer,  hoisted  international  signal  of  surrender,  stopped 
the  engines,  and  rounded  to,  bringing  the  submarine  on  the 
starboard  side.  The  crew  were  sent  to  boat  stations, 
but  to  my  surprise  the  submarine  started  to  shell  the 
bridge,  doing  considerable  damage.  I  was  struck  by  the 
first  shell.  He  then  started  to  shell  the  boats  and  boat 
crews,  killing  nine  men,  wounding  six  (three  fatally),  and 
smashing  the  starboard  boats.  During  this  shelling  the 
crew  had  all  been  sent  to  the  port  boats,  which  were 
manned  and  lowered  without  any  casualty.  After  the 
boats  were  lowered  the  chief  officer  and  myself  had  a 
look  round  the  decks,  but  could  not  see  anyone  alive, 
so  we  then  left  the  steamer. 

"  After  the  boats  left  the  steamer  the  gun  of  the  sub- 
marine was  pointed  towards  the  lifeboat  and  the  com- 
mander shouted  for  me.  As  the  second  officer  told  him 
I  was  in  the  other  boat,  he  turned  the  gun  away  and  told 
him  he  need  not  be  afraid.  The  submarine  was  flying 
the  German  naval  flag.  When  the  other  boat  appeared 
in  view  of  the  submarine,  I  was  ordered  to  go  on  board. 
I  did  so,  and  found  the  commander  and  lieutenant  in  a 
furious  rage  with  me  because  I  had  not  stopped  sooner. 
The  commander  rushed  down  from  the  conning- tower, 
shook  his  fist  in  my  face,  and  said,  '  Why  did  you  not 
stop  ?  '  I  replied  that  I  wanted  to  save  my  ship.  He 
then  said,  '  Why  did  you  not  stop  when  I  fired  ?  '  I 
replied  that  my  instructions  were  to  escape  if  possible. 
The   commander   said,    '  Never  mind    your   instructions ; 


you  must  obey  my  orders.'  I  replied  that  I  did  not  know 
anything  about  his  orders.  His  next  remark  was,  '  I 
can  shoot  you  as  a  franc-iireur.^  I  said,  '  I  don't  think 
so.'  He  said,  '  You  are  assisting  my  enemy.'  I  replied, 
'  I  am  your  enemy.' 

"  The  commander  then  said,  '  Had  you  stopped  when 
I  fired  three  shots  you  would  not  have  had  this,'  pointing 
to  a  wound  in  my  hand.  I  replied  that  it  was  my 

*'  I  was  then  ordered  back  into  the  boat,  and  the  sub- 
marine at  once  proceeded  to  sink  the  steamer  by  shell- 
fire.  After  firing  a  couple  of  shots  into  every  compart- 
ment, he  returned  to  the  boats  and  I  was  again  ordered 
on  board.  I  was  asked  for  my  instructions,  which  I  said 
I  had  destroyed.  I  was  also  asked  for  the  register,  and 
told  him  it  was  on  board  the  steamer. 

"  The  lieutenant  dressed  my  hand,  pointed  out  that 
my  foot  was  wounded,  and  gave  me  packets  of  dressing 
for  mv  foot  and  for  some  of  the  wounded.  Before  I  left 
the  submarine  he  told  me  to  inform  all  captains  I  met 
that  they  would  be  fired  upon  if  they  tried  to  escape. 
I  told  him  that  that  would  be  their  business  and  had 
nothing  to  do  with  me.  He  also  asked  me  the  position, 
and  I  said  I  had  not  had  a  position  for  some  time. 

"  We  then  parted  company,  and  after  I  had  picked 
up  two  wounded  men,  who  had  evidently  stowed  them- 
selves away,  the  two  boats  set  sail  for  Malta,  the  chief 
officer  having  charge  of  the  cutter  with  nineteen  men  on 
board,  and  myself  in  charge  of  the  lifeboat,  with  fifty 
men  on  board.  The  submarine  kept  about  half  a  mile 
south  of  the  boats  with  only  the  periscope  showing  for 
three  or  four  hours,  when  he  disappeared. 

"  The  lifeboat's  crew  were  picked  up  by  the  steamship 
Lord  Cromer,  of  Liverpool,  on  the  following  day  at  6  p.m., 
and  landed  at  Algiers  on  December  5th.  The  cutter's 
crew  were  rescued  at  2  a.m.  on  December  4th,  and  were 
landed  at  Malta  the  same  day." 

One  of  the  injured  men  died  of  his  wounds.  For 
several  months  Captain  Southward  was  in  hospital, 
recovering  slowly  from  the  injuries  he  had  received  during 
his  courageous  and  skilful  attempt  to  save  his  ship. 

Within  twenty-four  hours  two   other  large  ships   had 

CH.  VII]     GALLANT    CONDUCT    OF  "  BENALLA  "       195 

fallen  victims  to  the  same  submarine — the  Umeia  (5,312 
tons)  on  the  same  day,  and  the  Commodore  (5,858  tons) 
(master,  Mr.  H.  Russell)  early  on  the  following  morning. 
The  submarine  continued  to  fire  on  the  former  vessel 
after  the  master  (Mr.  W.  Moxon)  had  stopped  his  engines. 
Fortunately,  none  of  the  boats  was  injured  and  everyone 
on  board  got  away  in  safety,  except  one  lascar  who  re- 
fused to  leave,  and  an  engine  fireman  who  died  of  thirst 
and  exposure  in  one  of  the  boats.  The  Umeta  was  sunk 
112  miles  east -south-east  of  Malta,  and  when  the  enemy 
had  disappeared,  leaving  the  British  seamen  to  their  own 
resources.  Captain  Moxon  gave  the  boats  a  course  for  that 
port.  During  the  night  they  became  separated.  The 
master  and  his  companions  were  drifting  about  at  the 
mercy  of  the  waves  until  the  afternoon  of  the  5th,  when 
they  were  fortunately  rescued  by  the  Greek  steamer 
Massalia  and  landed  at  Algiers.  The  rest  of  the  crew 
also  found  safety.  The  Com,modore  was  even  farther 
from  the  nearest  land — 160  miles — when  she  was  over- 
hauled. For  half  an  hour  she  was  kept  under  a  heavy 
fire,  which  was  not  abated  even  when  the  men  on  board 
were  taking  to  the  boats.  One  man  had  already  been 
killed,  and  another  severely  wounded,  and  while  the 
boats  were  being  lowered  five  more  hands  were  injured — 
two  of  them  severely.  The  survivors  were  adrift  for 
twenty-eight  hours  before  they  were  picked  up  by  a 
Belgian  steamer.  On  the  following  day  the  Helmsmuir 
(4,111  tons)  was  torpedoed  off  Gavdo  Island,  and  three 
other  ships  were  chased. 

The  attention  of  the  naval  authorities  was  attracted 
in  particular  to  the  conduct  of  the  P.  &  O.  Benalla  (11,118 
tons).  She  was  proceeding  from  Alexandria  to  Malta 
with  troops,  when  a  wireless  call  was  received  from  the 
transport  Torrilla  (5,205  tons),  with  2,000  soldiers  on 
board.  The  Benalla  was  carrying  a  4'7-inch  gun,  and  her 
master  (Commander  C,  W.  Cockman,  R.N.R.,  retired) 
immediately  proceeded  to  her  assistance  at  full  speed. 
He  found  that  the  Torrilla  was  being  shelled  by  a  sub- 
marine, and,  as  she  carried  only  a  3-pounder  gun,  was 
being  outranged  by  the  enemy.  Captain  Cockman, 
exhibiting  fine  courage  and  a  high  sense  of  the  comrade- 
ship of  the  sea,  at  once  brought  his  4-7-inch  gun  into 
action  at  a  range  of  8,200  yards.     His  intervention  was 


almost  immediately  successful,  for  after  the  third  round 
the  submarine  submerged  and  made  off.  For  thus  saving 
a  valuable  ship,  as  well  as  many  lives,  Captain  Cockburn 
was  awarded  the  Distinguished  Service  Cross. 

For  a  period  of  three  days  British  seamen  in  the 
Mediterranean,  as  well  as  in  other  waters,  enjoyed  com- 
plete immunity  from  molestation,  and  then  on  the  7th 
a  loss  was  again  reported.  The  Cunard  steamship  Veria 
(3,229  tons)  was  steaming  towards  Alexandria  and  was 
within  twenty-four  miles  of  that  port — almost  safe  from 
danger — when  she  was  intercepted  by  a  submarine  and 
destroyed.  On  the  following  day  the  Tintoretto  (4,181 
tons)  had  a  narrow  escape  in  the  same  locality.  At 
9.30  a.m.  a  torpedo  was  fired  at  her,  but  fortunately 
missed  the  ship  astern.  The  master  (Mr.  W.  Tranter), 
sustained  by  the  presence  on  board  of  a  12-pounder  gun, 
brought  the  submarine  astern  of  him,  and  when  the 
enemy  opened  fire  returned  it  vigorously.  A  running 
fight  was  kept  up'for  nearly  four  hours,  pieces  of  shell  falling 
on  board  the  merchantman,  but  causing  no  damage. 
At  last  the  Tintoretto^s  gun  hit  the  submarine  at  extreme 
range,  and  this  success  brought  the  action  to  a  close. 
Captain  Tranter,  as  well  as  the  chief  engineer,  Mr.  J.  P. 
Rich,  received  "  mentions,"  and  the  Clasp  of  the  Mercan- 
tile Marine  Medal,  which  had  by  this  time  been  instituted, 
was  awarded  to  this  Lambert  &  Holt  liner  in  recognition 
of  the  fine  defence  which  had  been  made  against  the 
enemy's  attack.  The  same  good  fortune  did  not  attend 
the  Busiris  (2,705  tons)  on  the  following  day,  when  she 
was  sunk  by  gunfire  190  miles  west-north-west  from 
Alexandria,  and  the  Orteric  (6,535  tons)  was  torpedoed  by 
the  enemy  off  Gavdo  Island.  In  both  cases  a  deter- 
mined effort  was  made  to  escape,  in  spite  of  the  heavy  fire 
to  which  the  vessels  were  exposed.  The  master  of  the 
latter  vessel  (Mr.  G.  B.  McGill)  was  encouraged  to  hold  on 
his  course  by  the  reply  to  his  wireless  signal  for  help  which 
he  received  from  a  man-of-war.  At  last,  after  the  ship 
had  been  struck  eight  times,  Captain  McGill  ordered  the 
boats  to  be  lowered.  While  this  was  being  done  one 
boat  was  hit,  two  men  being  killed  outright  and  four 
others  seriously  injured.  When  the  three  lifeboats  had 
dropped  half  a  mile  astern  of  the  Orteric,  the  submarine 
opened  fire  on  the  craft  in  wliich  the  chief  engineer  and 


sixteen  hands  had  taken  refuge,  but  fortunately  the 
shots  missed  their  target.  It  was  the  good  fortune  of  the 
survivors,  left  afloat  140  miles  from  the  nearest  land, 
to  be  rescued  within  an  hour  and  a  half. 

Another  interlude  then  occurred  during  which  the 
enemy  met  with  no  success.  On  the  13th  the  Cawdor 
Castle  (6,243  tons)  escaped  by  the  use  of  her  gun  ;  on  the 
16th  the  Teucer  (9,045  tons)  outpaced  the  submarine  by 
which  she  was  attacked  ;  and  then  on  the  24th  sub- 
marines began  once  more  to  take  toll  of  British  merchant 
shipping.  In  the  meantime  there  had  been  a  spasmodic 
outbreak  of  activity  in  the  English  Channel.  The  Hunily 
(1,153  tons)  and  Belford  (516  tons)  were  torpedoed  without 
warning  off  Boulogne,  and  before  the  month  closed  sub- 
marines had  secured  the  Van  Stirum  (3,284  tons)  off  the 
Smalls,  and  the  Coitingham  (513  tons)  off  Lundy  Island  ; 
while  on  the  28th  the  El  Zorro  (5,989  tons)  was  sunk 
near  the  Old  Head  of  Kinsale,  eleven  lives  altogether 
being  lost.  The  Cottingham  was  on  passage  from  Rouen 
to  Swansea  on  December  26th,  when  a  submarine  opened 
fire  on  her.  It  was  soon  apparent  that  escape  was  impos- 
sible, so  the  engines  were  stopped  and  the  boats  filled. 
The  master  (Mr.  C.  Mitchell)  was  picked  up  by  a  patrol- 
boat  the  same  evening,  but  nothing  was  ever  heard  of  the 
chief  officer  and  the  six  men  who  were  with  him  in  the 
other  boat,  though  the  Cottingham  was  sunk  within 
sixteen  miles  of  Lundy  Island. 

This  outburst  of  activity  in  the  waters  surrounding 
the  British  Isles  was  of  short  duration,  and  in  the  mean- 
time the  enemy  continued  to  pursue  his  campaign  in  the 
Mediterranean.  On  Christmas  Eve  the  Yeddo  (4,563 
tons)  was  captured  and  bombed  off  Cape  Matapan  ;  the 
Abelia  (3,650  tons)  was  sunk  by  gunfire  152  miles  from 
Gavdo  Island  ;  and  then  on  the  30th,  as  the  Old  Year 
passed  into  history,  the  P.  &  O.  liner  Persia  (7,974  tons) 
and  the  Clan  Macfarlaiie  (4,823  tons)  were  torpedoed 
without  warning  with  a  loss  of  386  lives.  In  recognition 
of  his  services  Kapitan-Leutnant  Max  Valentiner  was 
awarded  the  Ordre  pour  le  Merite. 

The  story  of  the  experiences  of  the  officers  and  men  of 
the  Clan  Macfarlane  furnishes  the  climax  of  the  record 
of  the  sufferings  inflicted  on  British  merchant  seamen 
during  the  year  1915.       This    defenceless    ship    was    en- 


gaged  in  her  lawful  occupation,  having  left  Birkenhead 
on  December  16th  with  a  general  cargo  of  about  7,400 
tons.  She  was  on  passage  to  Bombay,  and  all  went 
well  until  the  afternoon  of  December  30th,  when  the 
vessel  was  sixty-three  miles  S.E.  by  S.  from  Cape  Mar- 
tello.  A  good  lookout  was  being  maintained  as  the  ship 
pursued  her  voyage  at  an  average  speed  of  10  knots. 
Though  the  atmosphere  was  clear  and  there  was  little 
sea,  nothing  was  seen  of  enemy  submarines.  The  Clan 
Macfarlane  safely  navigated  the  areas  associated  with 
the  greatest  danger,  and  it  seemed  as  though  she  might 
make  Alexandria  in  safety. 

The  master  (Mr.  James  White  Swanston)  was  among  the 
fifty-two  victims  whose  lives  were  sacrificed  as  the  result 
of  enemy  action,  and  consequently  we  are  dependent  on 
the  information,  very  full  and  circumstantial,  afterwards 
supplied  by  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  F.  J.  Hawley).  He  was 
just  going  on  duty  at  4  p.m.  when  the  ship  was  shaken 
by  a  terrific  explosion.  He  immediately  rushed  on  deck 
and  found  that  the  upper  hatches  of  No.  5  hold,  which 
had  been  battened  down  on  leaving  Liverpool,  had  been 
blown  out.  It  was  at  once  apparent  that  the  ship  had  been 
torpedoed.  She  carried,  fortunately,  no  passengers  ;  but 
the  crew  were  largely  composed  of  Indians,  and  that 
the  loss  of  life  was  not  heavier  was  due  in  no  slight 
degree  to  the  courage  and  discipline  exhibited  by  these 
natives  under  nerve-racking  conditions.  Mr.  Hawley, 
having  first  ordered  the  boats  to  be  lowered  below  the 
level  of  the  harbour  deck,  sounded  No.  5  hold  and  dis- 
covered that  the  water  had  already  risen  to  a  height  of 
18  inches  and  that  part  of  the  cargo  was  floating  out  of 
the  steamer  through  the  gaping  hole  which  the  enemy's 
torpedo  had  pierced.  A  search  was  made  of  the  fore- 
castles in  order  to  make  sure  that  no  one  remained  in 
them,  and  then,  after  conferring  with  Captain  Swanston, 
instructions  were  given  that  this  fine  steamer  should  be 
abandoned.  She  was  already  settling  down  by  the  stern 
and  darkness  was  coming  on.  There  was  no  time  to  be 

With  splendid  composure  officers  and  men  left  the 
steamer  in  six  boats  shortly  after  5  o'clock  and  rowed 
to  the  north  so  as  to  keep  clear  of  the  sinkin^  ship.  After 
an  interval  of  rather  more  than  half  an  hour,  a  submarine 

CH.  vii]  A   TERRIBLE   ORDEAL  199 

appeared  from  the  southward  and  fired  six  shots  into  the 
Clan  Macfaiiane  on  the  port  side  forward.  The  sub- 
marine commander  made  the  usual  inquiries,  and  then 
disappeared  without  a  thought  for  the  safety  of  the  men 
in  the  boats.  As  the  darkness  of  night  fell  around  him, 
Captain  Swanston,  undismayed  by  his  misfortune,  ordered 
all  boats  to  be  placed  in  line  and  made  fast  astern  his 
own  boat,  in  order  to  ensure  their  keeping  together  during 
the  oncoming  night.  Fortunately  they  had  all  been 
provided  with  sails,  and  each  man  had  a  lifebelt.  So 
masts  were  stepped  and  a  course  was  set  for  Crete,  up- 
wards of  sixty  miles  distant.  With  the  wind  blowing 
from  the  west,  the  little  boats  continued  to  sail  through- 
out that  night  and  during  the  succeeding  day,  the  sea 
happily  remaining  comparatively  calm. 

In  the  course  of  the  afternoon  land  was  sighted  and 
the  spirits  of  all  on  board  rose.  The  survivors  continued 
on  their  course  in  the  expectation  of  speedy  deliverance, 
but  in  the  early  hours  of  New  Year's  Day  the  wind 
dropped.  Captain  Swanston  held  a  conference  with  his 
officers,  and  it  was  decided  to  separate  the  boats  and 
take  to  oars.  In  these  conditions  some  progress  was 
made.  By  10  o'clock  that  morning  a  light  wind  had 
sprung  up  and  the  craft  once  more  set  their  sails.  As 
evening  closed  in  the  boats  were  again  made  fast  together 
astern  of  the  captain's  boat,  in  order  that  they  might 
not  lose  touch  with  each  other  during  the  night.  Early 
on  the  morning  of  January  2nd  a  glimpse  was  caught 
of  the  north-east  corner  of  the  island  of  Crete,  but  in 
the  meantime  the  wind  had  risen  and  the  sea  was  be- 
coming rough,  so  sail  was  shortened  and  a  course  was 
set  along  the  coast.  A  landing  could  not  be  effected 
owing  to  the  high  sea  which  was  running ;  it  was 
therefore  determined  to  hug  the  coast  at  a  distance  of 
three  or  four  miles  on  the  chance  of  the  weather  condi- 
tions improving. 

By  this  time  the  unfortunate  men  had  become  exhausted 
by  exposure,  and  to  add  to  their  troubles  a  tow-rope 
parted,  with  the  result  that  the  third  officer's  and  second 
engineer's  boats  went  adrift.  The  captain,  seized  with 
a  high  sense  of  his  duty,  cast  off  his  boat  to  go  in  search 
of  the  missing  craft.  It  was  an  almost  hopeless  task  in 
the    darkness   which   prevailed.     Mr.    Hawley,    the    chief 


officer,  lay  to  with  the  other  boats  throughout  the  night. 
The  weather,  far  from  improving,  became  increasingly 
bad,  and  weary  and  dispirited  as  they  were,  the  men 
had  to  bale  continually.  In  the  meantime  death  claimed 
five  of  the  natives  in  the  chief  officer's  boat  and  one  died 
in  the  second  engineer's  boat. 

At  daylight  on  January  3rd  the  captain's  boat  was 
sighted.  The  search  had  failed.  Three  more  native 
seamen  had  succumbed  owing  to  exposure.  The  outlook 
was  desperate  as  the  remaining  boats  were  once  more 
made  fast  to  one  another.  That  afternoon  it  was  regretfully 
realised  that  one  of  the  boats  was  unseaworthy,  so  it  was 
abandoned  ;  the  fourth  engineer  and  six  natives  were 
transferred  to  the  chief  officer's  boat,  and  two  other 
natives  went  into  the  captain's  boat.  Hardly  had  this  re- 
adjustment of  the  burden  been  completed,  when  the 
rudder  of  the  captain's  craft  was  carried  away.  So  Cap- 
tain Swanston  cast  off  and  made  fast  to  the  stern  of  the 
second  officer's  boat,  and  the  chief  officer  was  left  at  the 
head  of  the  pitiful  procession  of  little  boats,  buffeted 
by  wind  and  wave.  Late  that  afternoon,  owing  to  the 
rising  wind  and  sea,  the  surviving  boats  were  once  more 
in  danger  of  being  swamped.  The  captain,  therefore, 
lay  to  and  set  a  reefed  jib,  an  oar  being  used  for  steering, 
while  the  chief  officer's  boat  also  lay  to  with  its  sea  anchor 

Throughout  the  night  the  little  craft,  labouring 
heavily,  continued  to  ship  seas  and  the  men  were  kept 
hard  at  work  baling  out  the  water.  With  characteristic 
courage  they  fought  the  elements  throughout  the  night, 
and  then  at  dawn  were  distressed  to  find  the  captain's 
boat  was  missing.  At  noon,  however,  it  was  sighted, 
making  in  a  westerly  direction.  Mr.  Hawley  decided 
to  follow,  and  set  jib  and  reefed  lug  sail  for  that  purpose. 
As  he  had  the  second  officer's  boat  in  tow,  he  could  make 
little  headway.  Efforts  to  attract  Captain  Swanston's 
attention  failed,  and  as  darkness  fell  the  master's  boat 
was  lost  sight  of.  It  was  not  seen  again,  and  it  will 
never  be  known  how  this  undaunted  seaman  and  his 
companions,  adrift  in  their  rudderless  boat  on  a  distressed 
sea,  met  their  end. 

Early  on  the  morning  of  January  5th  Mr.  Hawley 
was  forced  by  circumstances  to  abandon  another  boat. 

CH.  VII]     "  CROWN  OF  ARAGON  "  TO  THE  RESCUE     201 

and  the  second  officer  and  the  fifth  engineer,  together 
with  seven  natives,  passed  over  to  the  chief  officer's 
boat.  The  operation  was  a  hazardous  one,  and  in  the 
process  the  rudder  of  the  chief  officer's  boat  was  carried 
away.  High  seas  were  running  and  the  outlook  was  as 
black  as  it  could  well  be.  As  the  light  broke  over  the 
waters  the  survivors  of  the  Clan  Macfarlane  found  them- 
selves fighting  grimly  for  life  as  the  waves  broke  over  the 
bulwarks  of  their  frail  craft.  Hope  revived  at  noon  as 
the  smoke  of  a  steamer  was  seen  at  a  distance,  but  the 
vessel  disappeared.  Thus  another  day  passed  and  night 

Early  the  following  morning,  January  6th,  the  second 
cook,  who  had  died  from  exposure,  was  buried,  and  before 
noon  one  of  the  boys  and  a  native  fireman  had  also  suc- 
cumbed to  the  ordeal  to  which  they  had  been  exposed 
by  the  enemy's  inhumanity.  It  seemed  as  though  the 
struggle  was  hopeless,  but  at  last  wind  and  sea  began  to 
moderate,  and  Mr.  Hawley  was  seized  with  the  faint  belief 
that  he  might  make  the  Port  of  Alexandria,  which  he 
reckoned  to  be  about  250  miles  off.  So,  with  the  reef  lug 
sail  set,  he  steered  his  little  boat  as  well  as  he  could  with 
an  oar  on  an  east-north-easterly  course.  Throughout  that 
night  the  chief  officer  and  the  second  officer  took  alter- 
nate watches,  and  noticed  with  returning  confidence  that 
the  sea  was  becoming  quieter.  Their  hopes  were  again 
dashed  ;  as  daylight  came  the  wind  shifted  and  the  sea 
began  to  rise  once  more.  The  little  company  was  now  a 
small  one,  for  another  native  had  died  from  exposure, 
and  the  captain's  boy  had  also  fallen  into  his  last  sleep. 
It  seemed  as  though  there  might  not  be  a  single  sur- 
vivor. Just  when  hope  had  been  wellnigh  abandoned,  a 
steamer  was  sighted  about  three  miles  distant.  The  dis- 
tressed seamen  had  no  means  of  attracting  her  attention 
except  by  waving  articles  of  clothing.  Would  the  signals 
be  seen  ?  Doubt  was  soon  resolved  into  certainty  as  the 
strange  vessel,  which  was  revealed  as  the  Crown  of  Aragon, 
bore  down  to  perform  her  errand  of  mercy. 

Mr.  Hawley  and  his  companions  had  been  adrift  in 
their  small  boats  for  seven  days  and  seven  nights,  and  the 
only  wonder  was  that  any  of  them  had  survived  to  tell 
the  tale  of  their  sufferings.  During  the  passage  of  the 
Crown  of  Aragon  to  Malta  t\vo  more  natives  died,  worn 


out  by  all  they  had  gone  through.  The  voyage  to  Malta 
was  marked  by  an  incident  which  raised  fears  that  after 
all  the  rescue  might  prove  vain.  For  a  submarine  was 
sighted  as  the  Crown  of  Aragon  was  making  her  way  to 
Malta.  The  vessel  carried  a  12-pounder  gun.  So  the 
master  turned  the  stern  of  his  ship  on  the  enemy  and 
prepared  to  fight  if  need  be.  The  submarine,  taking  note 
of  this  manoeuvre,  submerged  and  made  off.  In  this  way 
the  twenty-four  remaining  members  of  the  crew  of  the 
Clan  Macfarlane,  six  Europeans  and  eighteen  natives, 
escaped  almost  as  by  a  miracle  from  the  fate  which  had 
overwhelmed  fifty-two  of  their  companions. 

Though  the  Germans  continued  from  time  to  time  to 
harry  British  merchant  ships  in  the  southern  part  of  the 
North  Sea  by  aircraft  attack  during  the  period  when 
operations  by  submarines  in  British  waters  were  sus- 
pended, they  met  with  no  success.  The  story  of  the 
General  Steam  Navigation  Company's  steamer  Balgownie 
(1,061  tons)  reveals  the  spirit  with  which  masters  and  men 
stood  up  against  this  new  form  of  warfare.  This  vessel 
was  on  passage  from  London  to  Rotterdam  in  the  closing 
days  of  November,  when  she  was  surprised  by  the  enemy. 
Captain  Goodson's  resource  and  courage  led  to  the  pre- 
sentation to  him  of  a  cheque  for  one  hundred  guineas 
from  the  War  Risks  Association,  a  similar  sum  being 
distributed  among  the  crew.  In  making  the  presentation 
to  Captain  Goodson,  Sir  Kenneth  Anderson,  President  of 
the  Chamber  of  Shipping,  briefly  recalled  the  facts  as 
they  had  been  modestly  recorded  in  the  Captain's  log.  At 
about  2.30  p.m.  on  November  27ththecrewof  the  Balgownie 
were  surprised  by  the  rapid  approach  from  the  south-east 
of  three  flying  machines,  which  dropped  about  twenty- 
three  bombs,  some  of  which  fell  within  half  a  ship's  length 
of  the  vessel.  After  attacking  for  about  twenty  minutes 
and  using  up  all  their  bombs,  two  of  the  aircraft  continued 
to  fire  with  machine  guns  until  their  ammunition  was 
exhausted,  the  bullets  dropping  on  and  around  the  ship 
like  rain.  The  vessel  kept  on  a  zigzag  course  at  full 
speed,  the  only  weapon  being  the  ship's  distress  rockets,  of 
which  the  fullest  use  was  made,  and  the  captain  fired 
over  fifty  rounds  from  his  rifle.  Although  the  shots  did 
not  strike  the  machines,  they  made  them  fly  higher,  and 
no  doubt  saved  the  ship. 

CH.  vii]  ATTACKED   FROM   THE   AIR  203 

During  the  closing  months  of  1915,  when  the  enemy 
desisted  from  employing  submarines  in  home  waters,  a 
number  of  other  merchant  vessels  were  attacked  by  air- 
craft in  the  vicinity  of  the  Belgian  coast,  but  all  the 
bombs  which  they  dropped  fell  harmlessly  in  the  water, 
though  all  the  vessels  were  unarmed  and  were  therefore 
unable  to  prevent  the  aeroplanes  from  approaching  close 
to  them. 


THE    SINKING    OF    THE    "  PERSIA  " 

The  ordeal  in  the  Mediterranean  which  British  seamen 
were  confronting  with  characteristic  courage  had  attracted 
httle  attention  until  the  P.  &  O.  liner  Persia  was  sunk  on 
December  30th,  1915.  In  the  case  of  the  Lusitania,  the 
enemy  claimed  that  she  had  been  built  as  an  auxiliary 
cruiser  of  the  British  Fleet,  that  she  was  armed,  and  that 
she  was  carrying  ammunition  from  the  United  States  to 
a  British  port.  These  excuses  for  an  act  of  inhumanity 
which  shocked  the  civilised  world  have  already  been 
discussed.^  The  Persia  was  admittedly  nothing  more  than 
an  ordinary  passenger  ship,  and  the  Germans  had  promised 
that  passenger  ships  should  not  be  molested  ;  she  was  on 
her  way  from  England  to  Indian  ports  and  was  under  no 
suspicion  of  carrying  munitions  ;  she  mounted  a  small 
gun  aft,  but  it  was  available  only  for  defence  and,  in  the 
sudden  emergency  on  December  30th,  proved  useless. 
Yet,  in  face  of  the  pledges  which  had  been  given  to  the 
American  Government,  she  was  torpedoed  without  warn- 
ing, and  such  was  the  eflect  of  the  explosion  that  within 
five  minutes  she  had  disappeared  in  the  waters  of  the 
Mediterranean.  Her  destruction  resulted  in  the  loss  of 
334  lives. 

The  Persia  (7,974  tons)  had  been  built  at  Greenock 
in  1900,  and  was  a  sister  ship  of  the  Egypt,  Arabia,  China, 
and  India,  belonging  to  a  class  of  vessel  which  was,  at 
the  time  of  building,  the  largest  in  the  P.  &  O.  Company's 
service.  She  held  a  passenger  certificate  issued  by  the 
Government  of  Bombay,  allowing  530  passengers  and 
300  crew.  The  lifeboat  accommodation,  consisting  of 
eighteen  lifeboats  capable  of  accommodating  830  persons, 
was  far  more  than  sufficient  for  all  persons  on  board  at 
the  time  of  the  casualty,  and  the   large  loss  of  life  was 

1  Vol.  I.,  pp.  410-28. 



accounted  for  by  the  fact  that  the  vessel  took  a  sudden 
list  after  being  torpedoed  and  sank  within  five  minutes. 
Owing  to  the  list  it  was  not  possible  to  lower  the  star- 
board boats,  and  owing  to  the  short  time  she  remained 
afloat  only  five  or  six  of  the  port  boats  could  be  lowered. 

The  Persia  left  Tilbury  on  December  18th  with  201 
passengers,  including  many  women  and  children,  and  had 
a  crew  of  317.  She  was  bound  for  Port  Said,  Aden,  and 
Bombay,  and  in  addition  to  mails  carried  a  general  cargo. 
The  early  stage  of  the  voyage  was  uneventful ;  the  Persia 
called  en  route  at  Gibraltar  and  Marseilles,  and  then  at 
Malta,  where  five  of  the  passengers  and  two  of  the  crew 
were  landed. 

On  Thursday,  December  30th,  at  about  ten  minutes 
past  one  in  the  afternoon,  when  the  Persia  (master, 
Mr.  W.  H.  S.  Hall)  had  reached  a  position  about  lat. 
34°  1'  N.,  long.  26°  0'  E.,  she  was  torpedoed,  without 
warning,  by  a  German  submarine.  The  passengers  were 
at  lunch  at  the  time,  the  second  officer,  Mr.  Harold  Geof- 
frey Stephen  Wood,  was  in  charge  on  the  bridge,  Captain 
Hall  and  the  chief  officer,  Mr.  Gerald  Clark,  both  being 
in  their  cabins.  As  usual  precautions  against  the  sub- 
marine menace  had  been  adopted.  On  the  previous  day 
everyone  on  board  had  been  assigned  to  a  boat  and  drill 
had  taken  place.  Instructions  had  been  issued  that  all 
passengers  in  case  of  emergency  were  to  assemble  on  the 
promenade  deck,  the  boats,  it  was  added,  would  be  let 
down  from  the  boat  deck  above  until  they  reached  the  level 
of  the  promenade  deck,  when  the  passengers  would  get 
into  them.  There  was  no  thought  that  only  a  matter  of 
five  minutes  would  be  available  for  saving  everyone  on 

At  the  moment  of  the  explosion  a  native  seaman  was 
on  the  lookout  forward ;  another  native  seaman  was 
in  the  crow's-nest,  while  a  British  able  seaman  and  a 
native  were  on  the  lookout  on  the  lower  bridge.  A 
British  able  seaman  was  at  the  wheel.  There  was  a 
moderate  breeze  blowing  west  by  north,  and  a  certain 
amount  of  swell,  and  the  ship  was  proceeding  at  her  full 
speed  of  about  16  knots,  when  the  first  warning  of  any- 
thing untoward  came.  The  second  officer  caught  sight 
of  the  wake  of  a  torpedo  rapidly  approaching  the  Persia 
about  four  points  on  the  port  bow.     It  was  so  close  that 

206  SINKING   OF   THE    "  PERSIA  "         [ch.  viii 

before  Mr.  Wood  could  turn  to  put  the  helm  hard  a-star- 
board  the  vessel  had  been  struck — just  abaft  the  forward 
funnel  on  the  port  side,  a  violent  explosion  shaking  the 
ship  from  stem  to  stern.  This  explosion  was  immediately 
followed  by  a  second  one,  due  to  the  blowing  up  of  the 

The  second  officer  immediately  went  to  the  whistle, 
intending  to  sound  the  prearranged  emergency  signal,  but 
found  that  all  steam  had  gone.  He  then  ran  down  to 
Captain  Hall,  who  had  left  his  cabin  and  come  to  the  lower 
bridge,  and  Captain  Hall  ordered  him  to  get  the  boats  out. 
Mr.  Wood  hurried  at  once  to  his  station  on  the  poop, 
noticing  on  his  way  that  there  was  a  great  hole  in  the 
hurricane  deck  on  the  port  side,  presumably  due  to  the  ex- 
plosion of  a  boiler.  The  ship  was  then  listing  heavily  to 
port,  and  continued  to  heel  over  until  she  lay  on  her  port 
side,  before  disappearing  within  only  about  five  minutes  of 
the  explosion  of  the  torpedo.  Within  this  brief  time,  how- 
ever, Mr.  Wood  was  able  to  see  to  the  lowering  of  two 
port  boats  on  the  poop  deck,  which  were  loaded  with 
men  and  women  passengers  and  a  few  of  the  crew.  He 
then  loosened  the  gripes  of  two  inboard  boats  and 
attempted  to  lower  a  starboard  boat,  which  was  found 
to  be  impossible  owing  to  the  list  which  the  Persia  had 
taken.  One  of  the  port  poop  boats  floated  clear,  but  the 
other  was  pressed  down  by  the  davits  as  the  ship  turned 
over.  The  Persia  was  still  making  way,  although  with 
lessening  speed,  which  rendered  the  lowering  of  the  boats 
a  difficult  operation. 

Meanwhile  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  Gerald  Clark),  who  had 
been  momentarily  dazed  through  having  been  struck  by 
some  of  the  furniture  shaken  from  the  walls  of  his  cabin, 
had  seized  a  lifebelt  and  axe  and  ran  up  to  the  boat  deck. 
There  he  saw  that  the  boats  from  the  poop  deck  were 
already  being  lowered,  and  he  at  once,  therefore,  went  to 
the  assistance  of  those  who  were  attempting  to  lower  the 
boats  from  the  boat  deck,  using  his  axe,  where  necessary, 
in  order  to  clear  the  boats  as  quickly  as  possible.  He 
remained  on  the  boat  deck  freeing  the  boats  as  fast  as 
this  could  be  done,  in  the  hope  that,  although  there  was 
no  time  to  load  them,  they  might  be  of  service  in  picking 
up  survivors  from  the  water.  He  was  occupied  in  this 
way  until  the  listing  of  the  vessel  became  so  steep  that 


he  found  it  impossible  to  keep  his  feet  any  longer,  where- 
upon he  slid  into  the  water,  to  be  eventually  picked  up 
by  No.   2  boat. 

The  second  officer  had  also  slipped  into  the  water,  and 
had  succeeded  in  swimming  to  an  empty  boat,  into  which 
he  climbed  himself,  afterwards  saving  several  lives.  This 
boat  was  one  of  the  inboard  boats  which  he  himself  had 
helped  to  loosen,  and  both  of  them  had  fortunately  floated 
clear.  Ultimately  Mr.  Wood  succeeded  in  getting  forty- 
three  people  into  his  boat,  the  chief  officer  afterwards 
sending  across  five  more  from  No.  2  boat.  Unfortunately, 
owing  to  the  fact  that  the  Persia  was  still  under  way, 
most  of  the  boats  that  had  been  loosened  were  swamped, 
torn  away,  or  capsized.  Only  five  got  finally  free  of 
the  rapidly  sinking  ship.  Four  of  these  boats  were 
afterwards  joined  together  and  an  attempt  was  made  to 
row  back  to  the  scene  of  the  Persians  disappearance,  but 
in  view  of  the  overladen  condition  of  the  boats  and  the 
contrary  wind  and  swell,  this  was  found  to  be  impossible. 

The  boats  had  all  been  swung  out  from  the  davits  at 
the  time  of  the  explosion,  and  the  understanding  with 
the  engine-room  staff  had  been  that  in  the  event  of  the 
ship  being  struck  by  a  mine  or  torpedo,  the  engines  were 
to  be  instantly  stopped.  Unfortunately  it  seems  probable 
that  the  engineers  were  in  the  stokehold  at  the  time, 
superintending  the  cleaning  of  the  fires,  and  were  either 
killed  by  the  explosion  of  the  torpedo  or  as  the  result  of  the 
boiler  explosion  that  followed.  Altogether,  out  of  the 
total  number  of  501  persons  on  board  the  Persia,  only 
167  were  saved,  65  being  passengers,  including  2  children, 
and  102  crew  ;  121  passengers  and  213  of  the  crew  were 
lost.  Throughout  the  afternoon  and  the  following  night 
the  four  boats  remained  together,  and  were  finally  picked 
up  about  7  o'clock  in  the  evening  of  December  31st 
by  the  mine-sweeper  Mallow,  which  took  the  survivors 
to  Alexandria.  None  of  the  ship's  papers  could  be  saved, 
and  nothing  was  seen  of  Captain  Hall,  who  presumably 
went  down  with  his  ship. 

In  view  of  the  fact  that  most  of  the  passengers  were 
below  at  lunch  when  the  explosion  occurred,  that  the 
engine-room  instructions  could  not  be  carried  out,  and 
that  within  five  minutes  of  the  impact  the  vessel  had 
disappeared,  it  is  a  striking  tribute  to  the  courage,  quick- 


208  SINKING  OF   THE    "  PERSIA  "        [ch.  vm 

wittedness,  discipline,  and  seamanship  of  the  surviving 
officers  and  crew  that  so  many  lives  were  ultimately 
saved.  An  impression  of  the  scene  on  board  the  vessel 
and  of  the  subsequent  experiences  of  those  on  board  is 
conveyed  in  a  graphic  statement  of  Mr.  Grant,  an  American 
business  man,  who,  with  two  of  his  fellow-countrymen, 
was  on  board  the  Persia.  The  American  Consul  at  Aden 
was  among  those  drowned. 

"  I  was  sitting,"  said  Mr.  Grant,  "  in  the  dining  saloon 
at  five  minutes  past  one,  and  had  just  finished  my  soup. 
The  steward  was  asking  me  what  I  would  take  as  a 
second  course,  when  there  was  a  terrific  explosion,  and  the 
saloon  was  filled  with  broken  glass,  and  with  smoke  and 
steam  from  the  boiler,  which  seemed  to  have  burst. 
There  was  no  panic.  We  went  on  deck  as  if  we  were  at 
boat  drill,  and  I  reported  myself  at  my  lifeboat  on  the 
starboard  side.  The  vessel  was  listing  to  port  and  I  clung 
on  to  the  rail.  .  .  .  The  vessel  gradually  listed  more  and 
more,  and  it  was  impossible  to  launch  any  of  the  starboard 
boats.  Finally  I  climbed  over  the  starboard  rail  and 
slid  down  into  the  water.  I  was  sucked  down  and  got 
caught  in  a  rope,  which  pulled  off  my  shoe,  but,  breaking 
loose,  I  got  to  the  surface  again  and  clambered  on  to 
some  wreckage,  to  which  I  clung.  The  last  I  saw  of  the 
Persia  was  her  bow  pointing  high  in  the  air,  and  that 
was  only  five  minutes  after  the  explosion.  While  thus 
supporting  myself,  I  managed  to  collect  other  wreckage 
for  others  to  cling  to.  It  was  past  4  o'clock  before  I 
was  picked  up  by  a  boat.  I  then  saw  that  there  were 
five  boats  pulling  around  in  search  of  any  other  persons 
who  might  still  be  struggling  in  the  water.  Some  of 
the  boats  were  overloaded,  and  subsequently  there  was 
a  redistribution  of  their  occupants.  Four  of  the  boats 
were  then  tied  together  by  their  painters.  The  fifth 
was  some  distance  away.  At  half-past  three  the  following 
morning  my  boat  separated  from  the  others  to  search 
for  help  in  a  more  frequented  channel.  We  rowed  for 
three  hours,  and  at  last  saw  a  cruiser.  We  called  out 
'  We  are  English,'  and  explained  that  we  were  survivors 
from  the  Persia,  which  had  been  sunk.  We  also  gave 
particulars  as  to  the  whereabouts  of  the  other  boats. 
These  were   found   about   7   o'clock,    and   the   occupants 

CH.  viii]        EYE-WITNESSES'   NARRATIVES  209 

were  taken  off  by  the  English  sailors.  The  end  was  a 
horrible  scene.  The  water  was  as  black  as  ink.  Some 
of  the  people  were  screaming  ;  others  were  saying  good- 
bye to  each  other  ;  while  those  in  one  of  the  boats  were 
singing    hymns." 

The  torpedoing  of  the  Persia  was  viewed  from  another 
angle  by  Mr.  Walter  Ernest  Smith,  assistant  engineer 
of  the  condenser  plant,  Port  Said.  He  was  travelling 
second  class,  sharing  his  cabin  with  a  friend,  Mr.  Knight. 
He  was  in  his  cabin  washing  his  hands  for  lunch  when 
there  was  an  explosion. 

"  I  immediately  got  hold  of  a  lifebelt  and  started  to 
make  my  way  up  on  deck.  On  my  way  I  came  across 
a  lady  I  had  met  on  the  boat  who  was  standing  dazed, 
doing  nothing.  I  asked  why  she  did  not  get  her  belt 
on,  and  seeing  that  she  was  stupefied,  I  gave  her  mine 
and  went  back  to  my  cabin  to  get  my  own  life-saving 
jacket ;  she  was  not  amongst  those  who  were  saved. 
When  I  left  my  cabin  the  second  time,  I  noticed  that 
women  and  children  were  lying  about,  some  evidently 
in  a  dead  faint  and  others  moaning  and  crying  out.  One 
woman  I  remember  particularly,  a  Frenchwoman,  who 
was  leaning  up  against  the  rail  in  the  corridor  outside 
the  cabins,  was  quite  dazed.  Seeing  she  was  not  in  a 
fit  state  to  help  herself,  I  pushed  her  along,  and  that 
seemed  to  rouse  her.  I  practically  got  her  on  to  the 
deck,  where  someone  else  took  the  lifebelt  from  her, 
fastened  it  on  her,  and  pushed  her  overboard.  She  was 

"  When  I  got  up  to  the  boat  deck  I  found  Knight  and 
another  man  in  one  end  of  our  boat,  and  the  carpenter 
and  another  sailor  in  the  other  end.  They  were  trying 
to  get  her  away.  The  three  pins  had  been  displaced 
and  the  fourth  had  stuck,  as  we  had  foreseen.  Knight 
said  'An  axe.  Smith;  this  is  jammed.'  There  were  no 
axes  in  the  boat.  I  was  then  in  the  boat  and  looked 
around  and  picked  up  a  broken  oar  and  handed  it  to  him, 
and  he  gave  the  pin  a  whack  with  it.  The  pin  luckily 
gave  way  and  the  last  lashing  was  free.  By  this  time 
the  Persia  was  at  a  big  angle,  leaning  over  to  the  port 
side,   that  is,   on  the  side  the  torpedo  had   struck  her, 

210  SINKING  OF   THE    "  PERSIA  "         [ch.  viii 

and  so  when  we  freed  the  last  lashing  our  boat  swung 
out  from  the  side  of  the  vessel  and  then  bumped  back 
again  into  her  side.  We  all  lost  our  feet  in  the  boat, 
and  one  man  was  pitched  over  the  side  into  the  sea. 
Knight  was  pitched  out  of  the  boat,  and  I  could  only  see 
his  finger-tips  above  the  side  of  the  boat  as  he  clung  on. 
He  managed  to  scramble  on  board  our  boat  again. 

"  By  this  time  the  stern  of  the  Persia  was  settling 
down.  While  I  was  helping  in  our  boat  I  saw  a  boat 
next  to  us,  full  of  people,  being  lowered  down.  All  of  a 
sudden  one  of  the  davit  ropes  broke,  and  that  end  of  the 
boat  fell  down  and  everyone  and  everything  fell  straight 
into  the  sea.  The  other  davit  rope  then  gave  way,  and 
the  boat  landed  in  the  water  right  way  up  and  quite  dry, 
but  no  one  was  in  her.  People  then,  who,  I  supposed, 
had  jumped  off  the  Persia  farther  forward,  began  to  climb 
into  this  empty  boat  until,  I  suppose,  there  were  about 
twenty  to  thirty  people  in  her.  She  had  remained  fast 
to  the  Persia  by  her  painter  or  one  of  her  davit  ropes. 
I  then  saw  another  boat  empty  of  people  fall  right  on 
the  top  of  the  boat  in  the  water,  and  it  appeared  to  me 
that  most  of  the  people  in  her  must  have  been  crushed. 
I  saw  some  of  them  pinned  between  the  two  boats.  We 
had  failed  to  get  the  davit  ropes  of  our  boat  loose  in  time, 
and  the  stern  of  the  Persia  was  now  low  in  the  water. 
We  waited  until  our  boat  touched  the  water,  and  then,  as 
the  Persia  still  sank,  we  unhooked  the  hooks  of  our  davit 
ropes  from  the  davits  and  thought  we  were  free.  Knight, 
however,  cried  out,  '  A  knife.  Smith ;  the  painter  is 
fastened.'  He  said  the  davit  had  caught  our  painter. 
I  gave  him  my  pocket-knife  and  he  cut  the  painter  with 
it  and  we  were  free.  We  then  were  sucked  right  across 
the  stern  of  the  sinking  Persia.  We  were  then  in  the 
boat  six — three  passengers  and  three  crew,  the  latter 
all  white. 

"  We  were  fascinated  by  the  sinking  Persia,  and  also 
we  were  kept  over  the  sinking  boat  by  the  suction.  After 
she  had  sunk,  we  got  out  the  oars  and  pulled  out  of  the 
way  of  the  \\Teckage.  We  immediately  started  to  pull 
people  in.  There  were  a  good  many  people  in  the  water. 
All  people  we  picked  up  had  lifebelts.  After  some  time 
we  got  in,  I  suppose,  nearly  fifty  people.  Among  them 
were  five  women.     There  was  not  room  in  the  boats  for 


all  the  people  in  the  water.  Five  boats  altogether,  I 
believe,  got  away,  but  I  only  saw  four — that  is  to  say 
our  own,  No.  14,  and  No.  14a,  which  was  next  to  ours  on 
the  Persia  and  must  have  floated  off  when  the  Persia 
sank.  There  was  also  No.  16  and  the  accident-boat, 
which  was  under  the  command  of  the  chief  officer.  He 
took  charge  of  all  the  boats,  but  we  never  had  anyone 
who  actually  took  charge  in  our  boat.  There  were 
several  seamen,  besides  the  carpenter,  but  as  there  was 
no  officer  in  the  boat,  the  seamen  were  reluctant  to  obey 
in  particular  one  of  themselves,  and  if  any  one  of  the  pas- 
sengers offered  a  suggestion  he  was  told  to  shut  up.  Some 
time  after  we  had  got  clear  I  saw  a  small  boat  away  on 
my  side  of  the  boat  and  Knight  saw  one  also  on  his  side. 
I  saw  a  boat,  too,  which  I  took  to  be  a  tramp,  and  as  I 
watched  her — this  was  about  4.30  p.m. — I  saw  an  explosion 
take  place  forward  of  her  foremast.  She  did  not  sink 
at  once,  as  we  watched  her  for  an  hour  or  more,  but 
the  next  morning  she  was  no  longer  there.  Before  night- 
fall the  chief  officer  ordered  us  to  make  an  anchor,  which 
we  let  down,  and  the  other  boats  were  moored  to  us  in 
a  line. 

"  After  dark  we  saw  the  lights  of  a  vessel,  and  we 
burnt  our  flares,  but  she  took  no  notice  of  us.  The  next 
morning  we  saw  a  large  Cunarder.  Directly  we  saw  her 
the  chief  officer  instructed  the  second  officer  to  set  sail 
and  head  her  off.  This  he  did  and  got  close  to  her,  but 
directly  she  saw  him  she  sheered  off.  This  he  told  us 
afterwards.  In  the  afternoon  the  chief  officer,  who  had 
kept  the  best  men  in  his  boat — I  think  they  were  mostly 
passengers — said  he  was  going  to  row  in  the  direction  of 
Port  Said.  This  was  about  3  p.m.  After  dark  we  saw 
the  head  light  of  a  vessel.  We  watched  it  anxiously  and 
burnt  our  flares.  Finally  we  also  saw  the  starboard  light, 
and  then  the  port  light,  and  we  knew  she  was  heading 
towards  us.  When  she  got  fairly  close  to  us  all  the  people 
in  our  boat  got  up,  and  as  no  one  controlled  our  boat,  she 
was  soon  broadside  on  to  the  sea.  I  do  not  know  why 
we  did  not  capsize.  Knight  was  shouting  to  everyone 
to  sit  down.  Finally  we  got  alongside.  There  was  a 
bit  of  a  sea  running,  and  they  were  only  able  to  let  down 
a  rope  ladder.  We  had  some  difficulty  in  getting  the 
women  up  ;   one  of  them  stuck  halfway  up,  and  I  thought 

212  SINKING   OF   THE    "  PERSIA  "  [ch.  viii 

she  would  get  crushed  the  next  time  we  rose  on  a  wave, 
but  Knight  and  I  managed  to  push  her  up.  Knight  and 
I  then  scrambled  on  board.  The  ship  was  the  Mallow, 
one  of  H.M.  ships." 

A  noteworthy  tribute  to  the  discipline  and  promptitude 
of  the  crew  was  paid  by  Lord  Montagu  of  Beauheu,  one 
of  the  passengers,  who  was  for  some  time  presumed  to 
have  been  drowned.  Lord  Montagu  was  at  luncheon 
with  the  rest  of  the  passengers  when  the  explosion  occurred, 
and  at  once  went  to  the  station  which  had  been  allotted 
to  him  in  No.  6  boat  on  the  port  side  in  case  of  emergency. 
He  saw  that  the  boats  were  already  being  lowered.  He 
realised,  however,  in  view  of  the  rapid  heeling  over  of 
the  vessel,  that  it  would  probably  be  impossible  to  get 
into  them,  and  therefore,  with  great  difficulty,  he  started 
to  climb  up  the  starboard  side,  trying  to  pull  up  with 
him  his  lady  secretary,  who  happened  to  be  standing  by. 
He  was  then  swept  off  his  feet  by  the  rush  of  water  along 
the  promenade  deck,  and  the  next  moment  he  was  over- 
board. The  ship  then  sank,  and  he  was  sucked  down 
a  long  way,  striking  his  head  and  body  against  several 
pieces  of  wreckage.  He  ultimately  came  to  the  surface 
again,  thanks  in  part  to  the  buoyancy  of  the  life-saving 
waistcoat  which  he  was  wearing  at  the  time.  "  So  far 
as  I  am  a  judge,"  said  Lord  Montagu,  "  I  am  convinced 
that  the  commander,  the  officers,  and  the  crew  did  all 
that  was  possible  to  be  done  under  the  terrible  circum- 

When  he  had  sufficiently  recovered  his  senses  to  look 
around.  Lord  Montagu  saw  that  the  sea  was  covered 
with  struggling  human  beings,  but  comparatively  little 
wreckage.  He  swam  towards  a  signal  locker  that  he 
observed  near-by,  but  found  the  ship's  doctor  chnging  to 
this,  apparently  in  a  stunned  condition  and  with  an 
injury  to  his  head.  The  locker  being  only  sufficient  to 
support  one  person.  Lord  Montagu  then  swam  towards  a 
boat  floating  upside-down  some  fifty  yards  away.  A 
number  of  native  seamen  were  clinging  to  this  boat,  a 
larger  number  than  it  was  properly  able  to  support. 
Eventually,  however.  Lord  Montagu  managed  to  climb 
up  and  get  astride  of  the  keel  band  on  the  extreme  end 
aft,  and  from  this    position  saw  a   boat  only  half  filled 


a  short  distance  away.  He  shouted,  but  without 
succeeding  in  drawing  the  attention  of  the  occupants, 
to  whom  frantic  cries  for  help  were  rising  up  from  all 

"  About  an  hour  after  the  disaster,"  Lord  Montagu  said, 
"  there  were  left  on  the  upturned  boat  six  Europeans 
and  about  a  score  of  the  native  crew.  The  others  had 
dropped  off  as  they  became  too  weak  to  hold  on.  At 
this  time  the  boat  was  suddenly  righted  by  a  big  wave, 
and  with  great  difficulty  we  scrambled  into  her.  I  then 
discovered  that  not  only  had  she  a  large  hole  in  the  bot- 
tom, but  that  her  bows  were  split  open  as  well.  She 
was  in  a  state  of  extreme  instability,  for  some  of  the  air 
tanks,  which  showed  me  that  she  was  one  of  the  lifeboats, 
were  smashed,  and  others  were  perforated.  The  smallest 
weight  on  the  starboard  side  tended  to  capsize  her  again. 
This,  indeed,  happened  many  times  before  we  were  picked 
up,  and  added  very  greatly  to  our  sufferings.  By  sunset 
most  of  us  were  sitting  up  to  our  knees  in  water.  When 
the  sun  went  down  on  the  first  day  there  remained  of  the 
original  party  in  the  boat,  thirteen  native  seamen  and 
firemen,  two  native  stewards,  an  English  steward 
named  Martin,  an  Italian  second-class  passenger,  Mr.  Alex- 
ander Clark  (a  Scottish  second-class  passenger),  and 
myself.  If  it  had  not  been  for  Mr.  Clark  and  Martin, 
the  steward,  who  more  than  once  helped  us  to  climb 
back  into  the  boat  when  she  capsized,  I  should  have  had 
little  chance  of  surviving.  Though  there  was  not  much 
wind,  there  was  a  considerable  swell,  and  nearly  all  the 
time  the  sea  was  breaking  over  us.  Before  the  night 
was  half  gone  several  more  natives  died  from  exhaustion, 
and  as  the  bodies  were  washed  about  in  the  boat  we  made 
efforts  to  throw  them  overboard.  The  night  seemed 
interminable.  About  8  p.m.  a  steamer,  with  her  saloon 
lights  all  showing,  passed  about  one  mile  to  the  southward. 
I  think  she  must  have  been  a  neutral  boat.  We  tried  to 
attract  her  attention  by  shouting,  and  the  other  ship's 
boat  to  the  eastward  burned  two  red  flares  ;  but  no 
notice  was  taken,  a  submarine  ruse  probably  being 
suspected.  At  dawn  next  morning  there  were  only  eleven 
all  told  left  in  the  boat.  About  three  hours  after  sunrise 
we  saw  a  two-funnelled  and  two-masted  steamer  away 

214  SINKING   OF   THE    "  PERSIA  "         [ch.  vm 

to  the  southward,  and  our  hopes  were  again  raised.  We 
hoisted  a  piece  of  torn  flag  on  the  one  oar  left  in  the  boat, 
and  the  other  ship's  boat,  which  seemed  to  be  floating 
high  and  well,  also  signalled.  The  ship,  however,  passed 
westward  bound,  about  three  miles  away.  For  the  rest 
of  the  day  we  saw  nothing.  One  of  the  native  crew  about 
noon  managed  to  get  a  tin  of  biscuits  from  the  locker  in 
the  boat  under  the  thwarts,  and  we  ate  a  little  of  this, 
though  it  was  spoilt  by  the  salt  water. 

"  We  had  then  been  nearly  thirty  hours  without  food 
or  water.  I  myself  had  had  nothing  but  a  cup  of  tea 
and  a  biscuit  since  dinner  on  the  29th.  I  felt  the  heat 
of  the  sun  a  good  deal,  as  I  had  only  a  small  khaki  scarf 
for  protection.  At  sunset  on  Friday  we  had  practically 
given  up  all  hope  of  being  saved.  ...  I  found  it  a  great 
struggle  to  keep  awake.  The  tendency  to  drowsiness 
was  almost  irresistible,  but  to  fall  asleep  would  have 
meant  the  end.  We  capsized  once  more  about  7 
o'clock  through  the  Italian  turning  light-headed.  He  had 
yielded  to  the  temptation  to  drink  salt  water.  In  this 
accident  we  lost  the  tin  of  biscuits  and  the  red  flares 
we  had  hoped  to  use  during  the  night.  Then  about  8 
o'clock  we  saw  the  masthead  lights  of  a  steamer  away 
to  the  eastward.  At  first  I  thought  it  was  only  a  rising 
star,  for  there  was  very  clear  visibility  that  evening. 
Presently  I  could  discern  her  side  lights,  which  suggested 
that  she  was  coming  pretty  nearly  straight  for  us.  When 
she  came  closer  we  started  shouting  in  unison.  .  .  .  When 
the  ship  was  half  a  mile  away,  she  ported  her  helm,  stopped 
her  engines,  and  appeared  to  be  listening.  We  knew 
then  that,  like  other  ships,  she  expected  a  ruse  and  dare 
not  approach  until  she  had  made  further  investigations. 

"  After  some  time  she  came  nearer  and  we  heard  a  shout 
from  her  bridge.  Then  her  steam  whistle  was  blown.  I 
dared  to  hope,  though  hope  had  almost  died  within  us.  We 
tried  to  explain  that  we  were  helpless  and  had  no  means 
of  getting  alongside.  Eventually  the  captain  of  this 
ship — Captain  Allen — which  proved  to  be  the  Alfred  Holt 
steamer  Ning  Chow,  bound  from  China  to  London,  very 
cleverly  manoeuvred  her  alongside  our  wreckage.  We 
were  by  this  time  like  a  cracked  eggshell.  Bow  lines  were 
passed  round  us  by  a  plucky  Russian  and  an  English 
quartermaster,  and  we  were  eventually  hoisted  on  board. 


The  captain  and  his  officers  did  all  they  could  for  us. 
I  should  like  to  mention  that  it  was  Mr.  Allan  Maclean — 
a  Maclean  of  Duart,  Island  of  Mull — the  third  officer  of 
the  ship,  who  was  the  officer  of  the  watch  at  the  time, 
and  he  first  appears  to  have  heard  our  cries.  His  alert- 
ness and  keen  sense  of  hearing  were  our  salvation.  I 
consider  it  was  a  very  courageous  thing  for  the  captain 
to  stop  for  us,  as  he  and  his  officers  knew  they  were  in  the 
danger  zone,  and  ran  the  risk  of  being  torpedoed  them- 
selves while  they  were  helping  us.  Once  on  board  we 
began  slowly  to  recover  from  the  exposure  and  our 
injuries.     We  arrived  at  Malta  at  dawn  on  January  3rd." 

In  a  lesser  degree,  the  harrowing  experience  of  Lord 
Montagu  and  his  companions  were  those  of  all  other 
survivors,  exposed  as  they  were,  in  a  drenched  condition, 
for  over  thirty  hours  in  open  boats,  while  the  fate  of  the 
others  shocked  the  whole  civilised  world.  As  in  the  case 
of  the  Lusitania  and  of  the  many  similar,  if  less  conspicu- 
ous, outrages  that  were  to  follow,  the  traditions  of  the 
British  Mercantile  Marine  were  nobly  exemplified,  both 
in  respect  of  decision  in  emergency  and  instant  readiness 
for  self-sacrifice. 

It  should  be  added  that,  although  the  Persia  was  armed 
with  one  gun  for  purposes  of  defence,  this  was  not  used,  the 
Persia  neither  threatening  to  attack  nor  trying  to  escape 
from  the  submarine  responsible  for  her  loss,  which  was 
never  seen  by  anybody  on  board,  and  from  which  no 
warning   was    received. 

In  replying  to  a  number  of  questions  in  the  House  of 
Commons  on  March  8th,  1916,  with  reference  to  the  sink- 
ing of  the  Persia,  the  President  of  the  Board  of  Trade 
(Mr.  Walter  llunciman)  said  : 

"  I  would  like  to  add  a  word  of  appreciation,  in  which 
I  am  sure  the  House  would  like  to  join  me,  of  the  coolness 
and  courage  of  the  passengers  and  crew  and  the  discipline 
of  the  ship  maintained  in  face  of  this  sudden  and  appal- 
ling disaster.  I  am  told  that  the  captain,  officers,  and 
engineers  of  the  Persia  had  spent  their  lives  in  the  com- 
pany's service,  and  all  had  unblemished  records.  The 
country  is  deeply  indebted  to  those  who  are  facing  the 
perils  to  which  our  merchant  ships  are  being  subjected." 



In  the  early  days  of  1916  a  merchant  ship  on  her  way 
from  the  Spanish  coast  to  India  was  destroyed  by  the 
enemy,  and  her  officers  and  men  left  adrift  in  their  small 
boats  on  a  stormy  sea  200  miles  from  the  nearest  land  ; 
the  one  boat  which  survived  the  fierce  onslaught  of  the 
natural  forces  reached  the  North  African  coast  at  Ras 
Amana  after  six  days.  Events  were  to  prove  that  the 
unfortunate  men  had  only  escaped  from  the  merciless 
sea  to  be  attacked  by  marauding  Bedouins.  Three  men 
were  killed,  two  were  wounded,  and  ten  others  were 
carried  away  as  prisoners  by  the  Bedouins,  to  suffer  in 
captivity  for  a  period  of  nearly  eight  months. 

The  steamer  Coquet  (4,396  tons)  put  out  from  Torrevieja, 
on  the  Spanish  coast,  on  the  last  day  of  the  Old  Year 
with  6,200  tons  of  salt,  which  she  was  to  land  at  Rangoon. 
The  ship  was  well  found,  the  officers  and  men  were  com- 
petent, and  until  just  before  noon  on  January  4th  the 
voyage  proved  uneventful.  The  master  (Mr.  Arnold 
C.  B.  Groom)  had  adopted  the  usual  precautions.  A 
seaman  was  on  the  lookout  forward,  the  two  lifeboats 
were  slung  out  ready  for  lowering,  and  a  man  at  the  wheel 
kept  his  eyes  skinned.  The  third  officer  was  in  charge 
on  the  bridge.  Captain  Groom  was  in  the  saloon  when  he 
heard  a  gunshot,  and  as  he  ran  on  deck  there  was  another 
report,  two  shells  passing  across  the  steamer's  bow.  Though 
the  breeze  was  only  moderate,  there  was  a  heavy  swell, 
and  from  the  deck  of  the  Coquet  the  captain  was  able  to 
make  out  very  indistinctly  the  form  of  a  submarine  on 
the  port  quarter,  but  several  of  the  crew  had  noticed 
another  submarine  on  the  port  bow.  Confronted  with 
two  of  the  most  highly  developed  scientific  weapons  for 
making  war  by  sea,  the  captain  instantly  realised  that  his 
only  course  was  to  stop  his  engines  and  order  the  boats 



to  be  got  ready.  The  Coquet  was  already  losing  way  when 
the  master  hurriedly  placed  his  confidential  papers  in  the 
galley  fire.  When  he  next  looked  out  over  the  tossing 
waters  he  saw  that  one  of  the  submarines  (the  other  having 
disappeared)  was  flying  a  signal  to  abandon  ship  immedi- 

The  master,  with  his  officers  and  men,  at  once 
got  into  the  two  boats,  and  the  submarine  then  opened 
a  fusillade  on  the  merchantman  ;  eight  shots  were  fired 
at  the  ship,  but  not  a  single  one  hit  her.  The  enemy 
craft  drew  in  closer  and  ordered  the  boats  to  proceed 
alongside.  "  This  was  a  dangerous  proceeding,"  Captain 
Groom  afterwards  recorded,  "  as  the  submarine's  deck  was 
just  awash  and  there  was  a  big  swell."  At  any  moment 
the  frail  boats  might  have  been  dashed  to  pieces,  and  as  it 
was  they  suffered  considerable  injury,  which  afterwards 
contributed  to  the  sufferings  of  the  survivors  of  this 
outrage  on  the  high  seas.  Captain  Groom  was  ordered 
on  board  the  submarine,  to  discover  that  she  was 
manned,  in  the  main,  by  officers  and  men  who  were 
wearing  Austrian  uniform.  A  boarding  party,  armed 
with  revolvers  and  cutlasses,  got  into  the  two  boats  and 
they  were  ordered  to  return  to  the  Coquet.  All  hands 
were  given  twenty  minutes  in  which  to  collect  what 
they  wanted  to  take  with  them.  At  the  same  time  the 
captors  ransacked  the  ship  and  lowered  one  of  the  small 
boats,  in  readiness  to  carry  away  them  and  their  loot. 
When  they  had  got  all  they  wanted,  they  ordered  the  two 
lifeboats  to  return  to  the  submarine,  set  two  time-fuse 
bombs  under  water  abreast  Nos.  1  and  2  holds  of  the 
merchant  man,  and  left  the  ship  themselves.  Shortly 
afterwards  there  were  two  explosions,  and  the  ship  settled 
down  by  the  head.  Within  four  or  five  minutes  the 
Coquet  lifted  her  stern  high  in  the  air,  something  hit  the 
whistle  lanyard,  and  with  a  pitiful  scream  the  Coquet 

During  these  proceedings  Captain  Groom  had  been 
under  close  cross-examination  by  the  commander  of  the 
submarine,  who  spoke  passable  English.  He  was  plied 
with  questions  as  to  the  progress  of  the  war,  but  managed 
to  parry  the  inquiries,  probably  conveying  the  impression 
that  he  was  not  a  very  intelligent  officer  of  the  British 
Mercantile  Marine.     The  one-sided  conversation  was  still 

218       IN   THE   HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS       [ch.  ix 

in  progress  when  the  two  hfeboats  returned,  the  men 
vigorously  using  buckets  to  bale  out  the  water  which  was 
finding  its  way  into  the  injured  craft.  Captain  Groom 
pointed  out  to  the  commander  of  the  enemy  submarine 
that  the  bilge  planks  of  both  boats  had  most  likely  been 
sprung  while  they  were  alongside  his  awash  deck.  "  I 
told  him  it  was  nothing  short  of  murder  to  send  thirty-one 
men  away  like  that,  in  the  middle  of  winter  and  so  far 
from  land.  He  laughed  and  said  he  would  save  the  next 
ship  and  send  her  to  look  for  us."  The  thought  that  these 
unfortunate  mariners  were  about  to  be  cast  adrift  on  the 
wide  expanse  of  the  heaving  seas  of  the  Mediterranean  must 
have  seemed  to  Captain  Groom  demoniacal.  The  captors, 
however,  were  in  no  mood  for  mercy.  As  soon  as  the  boats 
were  alongside,  they  searched  them  for  anything  appealing 
to  their  fancy,  taking  chronometers,  sextants,  and  charts, 
and  every  scrap  of  paper  they  could  find,  including  the 
master's  "account  of  wages."  Captain  Groom  was  then 
directed  to  take  his  place  in  one  of  the  boats,  and  the 
submarine  made  off,  having  added  a  fresh  page  to  the 
record  of  inhumanity  by  sea  which  was  being  compiled  by 
the  men  to  whom  the  prosecution  of  the  submarine  cam- 
paign had  been  entrusted. 

Only  those  who  are  familiar  with  the  Mediterranean  in 
its  angrier  moods  can  appreciate  the  feelings  of  the  master 
of  the  Coquet  as  he  looked  over  the  heaving  waters  and 
realised  how  much  depended  upon  his  own  personal 
courage,  seamanlike  skill,  and  tempered  judgment.  The 
nearest  land  was  200  miles  distant.  What  hope  was  there 
that  the  two  boats,  with  their  load  of  thirty-one  men, 
could  reach  it  ? 

"  As  we  were  well  to  the  northward,"  he  has  stated, 
"  I  deemed  it  wisest  to  steer  south  (especially  as  the  wind 
was  freshening  from  the  north  to  north-north-west),  as  we 
should  then  be  running  right  across  all  the  tracks  of  the 
steamers  between  Port  Said  and  Alexandria  and  Malta. 
We  ran  so  until  nearly  dark,  when  a  steamer  was  sighted. 
We  saw  her  hull.  The  mate's  boat,  which  was  a  good  bit 
nearer  to  her  than  we  were,  showed  three  red  flares, 
and  we  showed  one,  but  if  she  saw  them — and  I  don't 
see  how  she  could  have  failed  to  do  so  if  any  lookout 
at  all  were  being  kept — she  took  no  notice  of  us.     The 




CH.  IX]  SIX  DAYS   IN   OPEN   BOATS  219 

sea  was  getting  too  dangerous  to  sail  any  longer,  so  mast 
and  sail  were  taken  down  and  sea  anchor  put  out ;  the 
latter,  although  of  '  B.O.T.'  dimensions,  proved  very 
inefficient  as  regards  keeping  the  boat  head  on  to  the  sea  ; 
latterly  we  used  the  mast  instead.  We  were  very  soon 
all  wet  through,  and  remained  so  practically  for  the  next 
six  days  (the  whole  of  the  time  we  were  in  the  boat). 

"  Heavy  weather,  with  a  cold  northerly  and  westerly 
wind,  continued  all  that  night.  '  Allowance  '  of  biscuits 
and  water  was  started  right  away  that  night,  viz.,  two 
and  a  half  biscuits  and  two  gills  of  water  per  man  per  day  ; 
latterly  I  increased  the  water  allowance,  finding  it  was 
not  enough  with  so  much  salt  spray  about.  All  the 
able-bodied  men  had  to  take  their  turn  at  baling,  two  at 
a  time  ;  the  steward,  who  firstly  was  old,  and  secondly 
ill,  I  made  exempt  from  this  work,  also  the  four  boys  I 
had,  who  were  very  young,  also  seasick  and  somewhat 
frightened,  I  fancy.  The  boat  was  very  overloaded  with 
seventeen  in  it,  and  was  ankle-deep  in  water,  in  spite  of 
vigorous  baling  with  the  two  buckets.  The  next  day,  the 
5th,  I  got  the  carpenter  to  take  out  three  of  the  water- 
tight tanks  on  the  side  where  the  plank  was  split,  and 
caulk  it  roughly  from  inside  with  bits  of  shirt ;  this  stopped 
the  leaking  a  little." 

Throughout  that  day  and  the  following  night  the 
weather  continued  stormy,  and  all  hopes  of  being  picked 
up  by  a  passing  steamer  had  been  abandoned,  when  just 
before  daylight  on  the  6th  Captain  Groom  was  encouraged 
by  the  sight  of  a  dark  object  which  was  disclosed,  away 
to  the  seaward,  as  his  boat  rose  on  the  crest  of  the  waves. 
It  appeared  and  then  disappeared,  and  at  last  he  con- 
cluded that  it  might  be  a  steamer  creeping  along  with 
everj^hing  darkened,  so  he  lighted  a  red  flare.  In  reply 
a  red  flare  duly  appeared,  and  hopes  ran  high.  But  the 
signal  which  had  given  such  joy  proved  to  have  been 
made  from  the  mate's  boat.  There  was  consolation  in 
company,  but  the  chances  of  falling  in  with  shipping 
were  reduced  if  the  two  boats  kept  together,  so  as  the 
mate  drew  in  towards  him.  Captain  Groom  shouted  out 
that  he  had  better  keep  some  distance  away  in  order  to 
increase  the  possibility  of  rescue.  So  the  two  boats 
drifted   apart,    and   the  mate   and   his   companions   were 

220        IN   THE   HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS        [ch.  ix 

never  seen  again.     What  happened  to  them  remains   a 
matter  of  sad  surmise. 

"  The  weather  got  a  little  worse  that  night  and  we  used 
the  oil-bag  with  good  effect  in  keeping  the  breaking  sea- 
tops  flat.  No  change  on  the  day  or  night  of  the  7th  ; 
everybody  chilled  to  the  bone  with  that  northerly  wind 
blowing  right  through  our  saturated  clothes  ;  we  all  used 
to  look  forward  to  the  daylight  coming,  in  the  hopes  of 
seeing  a  little  sun  ;  but  it  was  nearly  always  covered 
with  clouds.  Several  of  us  had  excruciating  pains  in  the 
ankles,  knees,  and  wrists  ;  the  poor  little  Italian  boy  was 
crying  all  one  night  with  them  in  his  sleep,  and,  of  course, 
I  could  do  absolutely  nothing  for  him  ;  I  had  them  badly 

"  In  the  early  morning  of  the  8th  the  weather  moderated 
somewhat,  and  I  decided  to  set  sail  and  make  for  the 
African  coast.  I  reckoned  that  we  had  drifted  across 
all  the  steamer  tracks  by  this  time,  and  with  the  sea  then 
running  it  would  have  been  entirely  out  of  the  question 
to  try  and  sail  back  over  them  again.  So  we  steered 
south  again,  and  made  fairly  good  weather  of  it.  During 
the  day  the  wind  '  backed  '  to  west-north-west.  This  did 
not  make  things  any  more  comfortable ;  however,  we 
continued  on  our  course. 

"  During  the  day  of  the  9th  the  wind  '  backed  '  still 
more,  and  during  the  rest  of  the  day  and  that  night  I 
was  only  able  to  make  south-east  instead  of  south  course. 
However,  just  after  midnight,  I  made  out  land  to  the  south- 
ward, and  just  then  the  wind  started  to  freshen  consider- 
ably and  sliifted  to  the  south.  Such  a  bad  and  dangerous 
short  sea  rose  that  I  had  to  take  in  the  sail  (I  had  tried 
reefing  it  at  first),  and  got  the  mast  and  a  couple  of  oars 
out  as  a  sea  anchor  ;  such  a  disappointment  when  land 
was  so  near  and  our  water  so  low,  but  there  was  nothing 
else  for  it.  About  5  a.m.  the  wind  moderated  a  little, 
also  the  sea  ;  so  we  set  our  sail  again  and  started  to  battle 
against  a  nearly  dead  head  wind  ;  a  very  hopeless  job 
in  a  steamer's  lifeboat  with  a  '  regulation  '  lug  (sail). 
We  slowly  banged  and  punched  on  a  diagonal  course  for 
the  shore  all  day,  and  then,  as  we  got  nearer,  the  wind 
fell  lighter  and  lighter,  and  this  nasty  lumpy  swell  still  in 
evidence  !  " 

CH.  IX]  A   NIGHT   OF   MISERY  221 

Land  was  in  sight,  but  could  they  reach  it  in  the  calm 
which  had  succeeded  the  high  winds  ?  The  men  were 
exhausted  owing  to  the  successive  days  of  exposure  and 
the  absence  of  nourishing  food.  It  was  with  difficulty 
that  some  handled  the  oars,  while  others  continued  to 
bale  out  the  water  ;  but  at  last  the  boat  crept  into  a 
little  bay,  with  houses  dimly  discernible  in  the  back- 
ground. The  boat  was  nearly  swamped  on  two  occasions, 
but  at  last  everybody  got  ashore  and  the  boat  was  made 
safe  for  the  night. 

What  a  night  of  misery  it  proved  to  these  unhappy 
men,  after  six  days  of  indescribable  suffering  in  their 
little  boat  !  Captain  Groom  has  left  us  the  simple  but 
harrowing  narrative  of  their  experiences  : 

"  We  slept  on  the  sands  that  night,  after  having  slaked 
our  thirst  with  some  well  water  and  eaten  a  quantity 
of  limpets  from  the  rocks  with  our  biscuits.  There  were 
a  quantity  of  cave-dwellings  around  the  bay  ;  but  they 
were  all  so  damp  and  smelly  that  we  deemed  it  wiser  to 
sleep  in  the  open  on  the  sandy  beach,  thinking  that  the 
sand  would  have  retained  some  of  the  sun's  heat.  This 
conjecture  proved  faulty,  however ;  there  was  a  chill 
dampness  which  struck  up  through  the  sand,  and,  having 
only  our  wet  clothes  to  cover  us,  we  woke  up  chilled 
through  and  through,  with  every  bone  acliing  ;  we  slept, 
owing  to  the  fact  that  it  was  the  first  opportunity  we 
had  had  of  sleeping  since  leaving  the  ship.  The  buildings 
we  had  seen  from  the  sea  proved  to  be  long-deserted  ruins, 
and  there  was  no  sign  of  life  any^vhere.  The  two  engineers, 
the  second  mate,  and  I  kept  watch  by  turns  during  the 

On  the  following  morning,  as  the  light  was  breaking, 
Captain  Groom  reviewed  the  situation — a  merchant 
officer  without  a  ship,  marooned  on  the  inhospitable  shores 
of  the  African  continent.  He  came  to  the  conclusion 
that,  as  there  was  plenty  of  water,  as  well  as  shellfish, 
with  which  life  could  be  supported,  it  would  be  unwise 
to  stir  until  he  knew  exactly  where  he  was  and  the  direc- 
tion in  which  the  nearest  port  lay,  at  which  he  could 
obtain  succour  for  himself  and  his  men.  There  was  little 
or  no  wind,  so  if  the  boat  was  to  be  employed  in  a  recon- 

222        IN   THE  HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS       [ch.  ix 

noitring  expedition  it  would  be  necessary  to  use  the  oars. 
Neither  the  master  nor  his  companions,  completely 
exhausted  by  the  late  ordeal,  were  tempted  to  re-embark 
with  this  prospect.  So  after  breakfast  Captain  Groom 
set  out  with  three  men  to  ascertain  what  their  surroundings 
were  like,  hoping  that,  perchance,  they  might  discover 
some  civilised  human  habitation. 

"  It  was  very  bad  walking,  sometimes  rough,  muddy 
ground,  strewn  with  big  stones,  and  hills  with  ankle- 
deep  sand,  etc.  We  felt  it  terribly  owing  to  having  been 
cramped  up  in  the  boat  so  long  and  deprived  of  the  use 
of  our  legs.  We  plodded  on  until  about  noon  without 
seeing  anything  that  we  wanted,  and  were  just  giving  up 
hopes  when  a  very  tall  Arab  appeared.  He  came  back 
to  the  camp  with  us.  One  of  the  firemen,  a  Greek,  could 
speak  Arabic,  and  when  it  was  made  known  to  the  Arab 
what  we  wanted  he  wanted  us  to  get  into  the  boat  then 
and  there  and  he  would  pilot  us  to  the  nearest  port. 
This,  alas  !  was  impossible.  When  I  left  in  the  morning 
I  had  told  the  second  mate  to  get  the  boat  properly  baled 
out,  and,  if  possible,  list  her  over  so  that  the  carpenter 
could  make  a  better  job  of  stopping  the  leak.  He  tried 
to  do  all  this,  but  with  all  balers  at  work  they  could  make 
no  impression  on  the  amount  of  water  in  the  boat ;  it 
came  in  as  fast  as  they  baled  it  out.  The  keel  had  evi- 
dently been  set  up,  as  the  planks  each  side  of  it  were 
badly  broken,  and  entirely  beyond  any  repair  that  we 
could  do  to  them.  So  the  project  was  put  an  end  to. 
The  Arab  suggested  that  I  should  go  with  him  to  the 
nearest  town  on  foot ;  this  I  could  not  do,  as  I  was 
utterly  done  up  with  the  six  or  seven  hours'  walking 
that  day  ;  but  I  eventually  sent  two  Greek  firemen  with 
him  (one  spoke  Italian  and  the  other  Arabic),  and  told 
them  to  try  and  get  some  boats  to  take  us  out  of  this  as 
soon  as  possible." 

With  the  departure  of  these  two  men  another  chapter 
in  the  experiences  of  the  remnant  of  the  crew  of  the 
steamship  Coquet  opened. 

"  That  night  the  rest  of  us — fifteen — slept  in  one  of 
the  cave-dwellings  with  a  big  wood  fire  in  the  centre  ; 
we  had  dried  our  clothes  somewhat  during  the  day  and 

CH.  IX]  THE   "  GENTLE  "   BEDOUIN  223 

the  fire  helped  to  keep  us  warm  during  the  night ;  the 
floor,  however,  was  very  hard  and  damp.  After  '  break- 
fast '  we  began  looking  out  longingly  for  signs  of  a  boat 
coming ;  some  of  us  had  a  wash  in  a  muddy  river-bed. 
I  was  just  going  off  to  this  pool  about  9,45  a.m.,  thinking 
to  have  a  bathe,  when  we  were  all  surprised  by  several 
bullets  whizzing  round  us.  On  looking,  we  found  that 
they  came  from  two  Arabs  on  a  hill  some  distance  inland, 
who,  between  shooting  at  us,  were  dancing  wildly  and 
laughing  and  yelling.  Thinking  they  were  two  Arab 
boys  who  had  got  hold  of  rifles  somehow  and  were  just 
amusing  themselves,  I  told  our  people  to  take  cover, 
which  we  did  in  a  deep  trench  formed  by  the  ruins  of 
some  old  building,  right  at  the  water's  edge  ;  in  fact  the 
sea  came  well  up  in  the  trench  at  one  end.  I  could  watch 
the  two  Arabs  from  where  we  were,  and  they  soon  went 
away,  but  I  thought  it  wise  to  keep  down  there  for  a  bit. 
"  Half  an  hour  after  that  about  fifteen  Arabs,  with  rifles, 
suddenly  appeared  over  the  edge  of  our  trench  and,  after 
giving  a  preliminary  yell,  began  jabbering  hard  in  Arabic 
at  us.  The  two  closest  to  me  had  their  rifles  all  ready 
to  fire.  I  held  up  my  hands  to  indicate  that  I  was 
unarmed  ;  one  of  them  still  jabbered  at  me,  but  the  other 
took  careful  aim  at  my  head  ;  I  ducked  forward  and  to 
one  side  a  little  at  just  about  the  same  instant  that  he 
pulled  the  trigger,  so  the  bullet  took  a  track  through  the 
flesh  across  the  back  of  my  shoulders,  instead  of  hitting 
my  head.  The  Arab  was  only  about  six  feet  from  me 
when  he  fired  ;  the  force  of  the  shock  knocked  me  back- 
wards. I  remember  falling  and  my  head  hitting  the  sand. 
After  that  I  must  have  lost  consciousness,  as  when  I 
awoke  everything  was  quiet  except  for  the  groaning  of 
the  carpenter,  who  was  rolling  between  me  and  the  edge 
of  the  water,  about  six  feet.  I  found  he  was  horribly 
mutilated,  but  still  alive.  He  asked  me  to  drag  him  away 
from  the  sea  ;  I  tried  to,  but  he  was  a  big  man  and  my 
wound  was  very  painful.  A  little  way  out  in  the  water 
the  steward  was  floating,  face  downwards  ;  whether  he 
was  shot  or  drowned,  or  both,  I  do  not  know.  Farther 
up  the  beach  the  little  Italian  messroom  boy  was  lying 
dead.  I  could  see  nothing  of  anybody  else,  and  was 
afraid  to  go  out  of  the  trench,  thinking  that  if  the  Bedouins 
saw  me  alive  they  would  come  back  to  finish  me  off." 


224       IN   THE  HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS        [ch.  ix 

It  must  have  seemed  to  this  courageous  and  hardly 
tried  merchant  officer  that  he  was  doomed  to  die  on  this 
sandy  beach,  either  from  exposure  or  by  the  hands  of 
the  Arabs  if  they  chanced  to  return.  His  sole  companion 
was  apparently  the  carpenter,  to  whom  he  gave  drinks 
of  water  from  a  bucket,  which  they  had  brought  to  the 
trench,  in  the  hope  of  alleviating  his  agony.  At  last  a 
patch  of  smoke  appeared  on  the  horizon,  and  then  the 
outline  of  a  small  steamer  appeared  and  Captain  Groom 
realised  that  help  was  at  last  to  hand.  The  vessel  was 
flying  the  Italian  flag.  She  had  sailed  from  Ania  promptly 
in  response  to  the  appeals  of  the  two  Greek  firemen. 
Could  she  arrive  before  the  Bedouins  returned  ? 

"  When  she  headed  into  the  bay  and  her  boat  was 
coming  ashore,  I  came  out  from  the  trench.  There  was 
not  a  sign  of  the  Bedouins  or  the  rest  of  our  people,  except 
a  sailor  named  Lord,  who  was  lying  on  the  sand  some 
distance  from  the  trench  most  brutally  wounded  by 
both  bullet  and  bayonet.  He  said  that  the  others,  ten 
of  them,  had  been  carried  off  as  prisoners  by  the  Bedouins, 
after  having  had  everything  of  any  value  taken  off  them  : 
they  were  taking  him  also,  but  he  thinks  they  thought 
that  he  was  so  wounded  that  he  would  be  a  hindrance  to 
them,  and  so  tried  to  finish  liim  off  on  the  spot  and  left 
him  for  dead. 

"  When  the  boat  landed,  the  commander  of  the  Fort  of 
Marsa  Susa  came  ashore  with  a  party  of  his  Arab  soldiers, 
who  quickly  ran  to  the  tops  of  the  nearest  hills  to  look 
for  the  Bedouins,  but  they  had  had  too  long  a  time  and 
had  got  out  of  sight.  The  soldiers  then  made  a  thorough 
search  in  the  vicinity,  but  found  no  trace  of  the  Bedouins 
or  their  captives.  The  commander  of  the  Fort  of  Marsa 
Susa  then  took  us  aboard  the  little  steamer,  also  the 
bodies  of  the  steward  and  messroom  boy,  and  our  wounds 
were  washed  and  bandaged  as  well  as  was  possible.  The 
carpenter  died  just  as  we  were  starting  to  wash  his  wounds." 

What  had  happened  to  the  men  whom  the  Bedouins 
had  carried  off  ?  The  captors  had  lined  up  the  survivors 
of  the  seamen,  taken  from  them  everything  of  value  wliich 
they  possessed,  and  then  driven  them  off  into  the  hills, 
using    their    bayonets    and    shouting    vigorously.     They 

CH.  IX]  A   TRYING   MARCH  225 

afterwards  kept  these  unhappy  men  at  the  jog-trot  for 
about  an  hour  until  they  reached  a  valley,  where  they 
found,  to  their  satisfaction,  tiny  pools  of  water  among  the 
rocks.  The  water  was  very  lively  with  little  hairy,  red, 
crawling  "  bichos,"  but  nevertheless  the  tliirsty  men 
were  very  thankful  for  it.  After  about  a  quarter  of  an 
hour's  rest,  the  Bedouins  set  off  again,  and  their  prisoners 
were  forced  to  imitate  mountain  goats  all  day  until  about 
9  p.m.,  when  the  party  came  to  a  few  caves  which  were 
being  used  as  an  encampment.  There  their  captors 
brought  them  before  a  big,  fat  Arab,  who  appeared  to  be 
a  chief.  He  could  speak  a  little  French,  so  some  sort  of 
a  conversation  was  carried  on  through  the  Greek  sailor. 
When  this  pow-wow  came  to  an  end  after  midnight, 
they  were  given  a  meal,  consisting  of  boiled  goats'  flesh 
and  very  fresh,  heavy  bread.  This  was  the  first  food  they 
had  had  since  eating  a  few  limpets  before  the  Bedouins 
attacked  them, 

"  Early  next  morning,  after  a  tiny  glass  of  Turkish 
coffee,"  one  of  the  party  recorded  afterwards,  "  we  set  off 
in  a  heavy  downpour  of  rain,  most  of  us  on  foot,  but  one 
of  our  party,  who  had  a  hole  in  his  leg  as  the  result  of 
a  bullet,  was  on  a  camel.  As  it  was  his  first  attempt  at 
imitating  a  Camel  Corps  trooper,  he  was  quite  amusing  to 
watch  until  he  got  used  to  the  motion.  I  don't  mean 
that  he  was  sick  or  anything  like  that,  but  he  was  nearly 
off  several  times,  which  added  to  our  mirth  and  his 
annoyance.  At  about  noon  we  came  to  a  lone  tent,  where 
we  stopped  for  refreshments,  which  turned  up  at  long 
last  and  proved  to  be  a  big,  flat,  round  bowl  of  boiled 
rice,  which  we  ate,  sitting  on  our  haunches  in  true  Arab 
style,  with  our  hands  instead  of  spoons.  When  we  had 
eaten  as  much  of  it  as  we  could  get  down,  which  was  not 
very  much,  as  one  can't  eat  much  rice  at  the  first  sitting, 
our  host  threw  in  what  appeared  to  be  some  bones  with 
a  little  meat  on  them,  which  we  sucked  and  gnawed  at 
until  there  was  no  meat  left.  We  learnt  afterwards 
that  these  bones  were  goats'  ribs." 

A  fresh  move  was  begun  after  a  short  rest,  and  a  three- 
hours'  trudge  brought  the  party  to  another  cave  camp. 
As  the  Arab  women  were  housed  in  the  largest  cave,  which 

226       IN   THE  HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS       [ch.  ix 

was  the  only  one  large  enough  to  contain  all  the  prisoners, 
they  had  to  turn  out,  taking  their  goods  and  chattels  with 
them.  They  left  very  comfortable  sleeping-quarters, 
which  the  seamen  were  very  glad  to  occupy,  having  been 
served  with  another  meal  of  meat  and  rice. 

"  This  journeying  went  on  for  another  few  days,  until 
we  came  to  quite  a  large  native  camp,  where  we  were  kept 
in  the  prison  tent  along  with  other  malefactors  for  nearly 
a  week.  We  thought  we  were  very  badly  off  then,  but 
we  found  out  later  that  that  was  the  best  time  we  had  in 
all  our  sojourn. 

"  One  day,  the  big  sheikh  whom  we  had  met  before 
came  to  us  and  told  us  that  we  were  going  to  be  taken 
to  a  big  town  by  the  sea  and  given  clothes,  boots,  and  all 
wearing  apparel  and  revolvers,  amongst  other  things, 
and  were  going  to  be  sent  away  in  a  ship.  We  were  very 
much  elated,  and  followed  him  in  liigh  spirits  for  several 
days,  stopping  here  for  a  meal  and  there  for  the  night, 
until  we  fell  in  with  a  large  gathering  of  people  who 
seemed  to  be  going  on  some  pilgrimage.  At  last  we 
emerged  into  a  vast  plain,  with  what  we  took  to  be  a 
small  town  in  the  centre,  to  which  we  came,  ushered  in 
to  the  strains  of  martial  music,  including  the  '  British 
Grenadiers,'  played  by  a  brass  band  composed  of  Arabs, 
Turks,   and  Italian   deserters." 

After  a  time  the  men  were  led  before  Sidi  Idris,  the 
legitimate  head  of  the  Senussi  tribes,  and  through  the 
interpreters  he  asked  them  if  they  would  like  to  be  sent 
straight  home  or  kept  to  the  end  of  the  war,  to  which  they 
made  the  obvious  answer.  Next  day  they  set  off  once 
more,  mounted  on  camels,  in  company  with  a  big  caravan, 
and  travelled  all  that  day  and  for  many  subsequent  days, 
sometimes  with  the  caravan  and  sometimes  by  themselves 
under  guard,  until  they  came  to  an  abandoned  block- 
house, called  Sklydeema,  where  they  remained  two  days 
to  rest. 

"  There  a  Turk  took  a  fancy  to  my  wrist-watch,  which 
I  had  worn  and  kept  going  ever  since  the  Coquet  went  down. 
He  asked  me  what  1  wanted  for  it,  and  I  told  him  eighty 
francs,  so  he  gave  me  five  to  go  on  with.     When  I  asked 


him  for  the  residue,  he  swore  he  had  given  me  the  fair 
price  and  I  never  got  any  more  for  it.  I  learnt  after- 
wards that  it  stopped  soon  after  he  got  it,  so  he  sold  it 
to  one  of  Sidi  Idris's  stewards,  whom  I  saw  wearing  it 
months  after,  but  of  course  it  was  broken  and  of  no  use 
to  him.  We  left  one  of  our  party,  a  fireman,  in  Sklydeema, 
who  was  dying  of  tetanus,  induced  by  a  bad  bullet  wound 
in  his  arm.     He  died  two  days  after  we  left." 

After  another  week's  travelling  these  harried  seamen 
came  to  their  final  lodgment  at  Jedabia.  They  arrived 
there  on  the  evening  of  February  4th,  exactly  a  month  after 
they  had  left  the  sinking  Coquet. 

"  We  were  first  housed  in  a  room  with  four  walls,  a 
roof,  and  a  concrete  floor,  and  were  quite  well  looked 
after  for  a  few  days.  A  party  of  Italian  prisoners  were 
brought  in  on  the  fourth  day,  and  that  evening  we  were 
all  put  together  in  a  compound.  Our  party,  comprising 
twenty-three  men,  were  lodged  in  another  hut  facing  us 
across  the  courtyard.  Of  course  we  got  into  communica- 
tion, as  one  of  the  Italians  spoke  French  very  well,  and 
we  could  understand  that.  They  asked  us  if  we  had 
been  made  to  do  any  work,  and  were  surprised  to  hear 
that  we  had  not.  Next  day,  however,  an  Arab  guard 
came  and  took  us  all  out  to  work  together,  and  that  was 
the  beginning  of  our  troubles. 

"  That  same  evening  two  Italians  prevailed  upon  our 
Greek  sailor  to  try  to  escape,  to  which  he  agreed.  So 
about  midnight  they  all  climbed  the  wall  of  the  compound, 
which  was  right  on  the  outskirts  of  the  fortified  block- 
house of  Jedabia.  They  climbed  to  the  top  all  right, 
with  much  puffing  and  blowing,  and  the  first  man  to  drop 
down  on  the  other  side  fell  on  some  rusty  tins  and  rub- 
bish, making  a  frightful  row,  and  we  all  thought  that  the 
whole  lot  would  be  caught,  but  nothing  stirred,  so  they 
set  off  on  foot.  Of  course  the  next  day  the  Arabs  dis- 
covered the  escape,  and  some  of  them  set  off  in  pursuit 
on  fast  racing  camels,  and  soon  came  up  to  the  fugitives 
and  brought  them  back. 

"  Then  all  we  prisoners,  British  and  Italian,  were 
lined  up  and  given  a  lecture  by  the  Commandant  of 
Jedabia  upon  the  evils  of  trying  to  escape.     He  asked 

228        IN   THE  HANDS   OF   THE   BEDOUINS        [ch.  ix 

who  was  the  instigator  of  the  attempt,  and  all  the  blame 
was  put  on  the  poor  Greek  sailor.  The  two  Italians 
were  given  twenty  lashes  with  the  kurbash  and  the  Greek 
was  given  fifty  lashes  and  condemned  to  be  chained  to 
a  six-foot  chain  pegged  into  the  ground  for  two  months, 
and  he  was  also  handcuffed.  Whenever  he  wanted  to 
move  about,  the  second  mate  had  to  take  a  turn  round  his 
(the  Greek's)  neck  with  the  chain  and  keep  hold  of  the 
peg,  and  peg  him  up  securely  again  when  he  came  back. 
The  Commandant  also  warned  us  that  the  next  person 
or  persons  attempting  to  escape  would,  if  caught,  be 

"  Soon  after  this  we  had  to  make  a  kind  of  room  of 
corrugated  iron  at  one  end  of  a  demolished  barrack. 
I  must  mention  that  Jedabia  was  an  Italian  block-house, 
or  fort,  which  the  garrison  had  to  evacuate  and  which  they 
demolished  with  dynamite  as  far  as  possible  before  they 
did  so.  When  we  had  finished  our  new  prison,  we  moved 
into  it,  and  a  guard  of  six  Arabs,  under  an  effendi,  was 
posted  ;  they  were  housed  in  a  small  species  of  dug-out 
right  alongside  the  only  exit  from  the  prison  yard. 

"  From  now  on  until  the  end  of  July  we  lived,  fed,  and  had 
our  being  in  this  corrugated-iron  room,  and  our  duties 
became  more  or  less  regular.  At  sunrise  the  effendi 
(captain)  of  the  guard  would  beat  on  the  iron  door  with 
his  kurbash  (whip)  and  repeat  the  summons  to  rise  and 
get  to  work,  and  we  would  all  troop  out,  except  the  sick 
or  exempted  ones.  Our  jobs  were  various,  but  they 
all  had  to  do  with  rebuilding  Jedabia.  Some  mixed 
mortar  ;  others  got  big  and  little  stones  ;  others  again 
assisted  the  native  masons  and  bricklayers.  For  a  month 
or  so  all  our  food  was  cooked  for  us  by  Arabs  belonging 
to  Sidi  Idris's  retinue  of  servants,  and  at  noon  one  of  us 
was  told  to  go  and  get  the  food  and  the  rest  went  home. 
Our  food  consisted,  for  the  most  part,  of  boiled  goats' 
meat  and  rice  that  had  been  boiled  in  the  soup,  which  was 
very  good,  but  there  was  never  enough  of  that.  After 
about  two  hours'  siesta,  we  were  led  out  again  and  con- 
tinued our  various  labours  till  sunset,  when  another  meal 
was  provided  of  the  same  character,  after  which  we 
usually  went  to  bed.  Our  beds  consisted  of  grass  mats 
spread  over  the  earthen  floor,  with  a  conveniently  shaped 
stone  for  a  pillow,  and  our  covering  was  a  number  of  date 


sacks  made  of  camel's  hair,  sewn  together.  We  had  to 
sleep  very  close  together  to  keep  warm  for  the  first  few 
months,  as  the  nights  were  very  cold  ;  in  fact,  it  was 
always  pretty  chilly  at  night  time. 

"  We  saw  many  instances  of  the  Arab's  love  of  pomp 
and  show  when  any  notability  came  into  Jedabia.  Sidi 
Idris  came  in  one  evening  shortly  after  we  were  installed 
in  our  permanent  prison.  The  whole  population  turned 
out  to  watch  the  procession  of  gorgeously  dressed  sheikhs, 
riding  on  beautifully  caparisoned  Arab  horses,  whose 
saddles  and  bridles  had  gold  buckles,  etc.,  with  stirruj^s 
of  gold.  One  morning  in  April  we  were  surprised  to  see 
small  European  tents  and  camp  equipment  of  green 
canvas  and  white  men  moving  amongst  them.  We 
learnt  that  these  were  some  German  officers,  who  had  just 
landed  on  the  coast  fifteen  miles  away  from  a  submarine. 
On  further  acquaintance  they  proved  to  be  very  agreeable, 
and  expressed  much  sympathy  at  our  plight.  With  them 
was  one  Nuri  Bey,  brother  of  Enver  Bey,  of  Turkish 
Army  fame.  He,  so  we  learnt,  had  managed  to  escape 
from  the  English  and  had  found  his  way  to  Jedabia. 
The  Germans  used  to  give  the  second  mate  five  francs 
per  week  for  tobacco  for  our  party,  and  Nuri  used  to  give 
the  same  for  tea. 

"  Towards  the  end  of  the  Ramadan  the  Italians  were 
all  marched  off  to  another  block-house,  called  Jalo,  which 
was  eight  days'  journey  farther  to  the  southward,  and 
where  there  was  no  permanent  water  supply  and  the  con- 
ditions far  worse  than  those  at  Jedabia.  The  day  after 
their  departure  we  did  not  have  to  go  out  to  work,  and 
Nuri  Bey  called  us  to  his  tent  and  presented  us  each 
with  thirty  francs  Turkish,  as,  he  explained,  payment 
for  work  done  for  the  Turkish  Government.  The  same 
day  a  small  parcel  came  through  to  us  from  the  British 
Consul,  which  proved  to  contain  money,  cigarettes,  and 
letters.  Marvellous  to  relate,  all  the  money  and  cigarettes 
came  through  intact,  which  speaks  well  for  the  power  of 
Sidi  Idris,  who,  I  believe,  knew  that  the  parcel  was  coming. 

"  The  next  day  an  Italian  deserter  joined  our  party, 
which  was  the  signal  for  us  to  go  out  to  work  again. 
However,  it  was  not  for  very  long,  as  two  nights  after  his 
appearance  we  were  sent  for  while  he  slept  and  were 
brought  before  some  Egyptian  potentates,  who  said  that 

230        IN   THE   HANDS    OF   THE   BEDOUINS        [ch.  ix 

we  were  going  to  be  sent  home  the  next  day.  Next 
evening  we  were  each  given  a  complete  outfit  of  Arab 
clothes,  including  a  burnous  and  tarboosh.  A  crowd 
of  camels  having  been  brought  round  to  us,  we  each 
mounted  one  and  set  off  under  the  escort  of  four  niggers 
and  arrived  at  an  inhabited  Italian  block-house  early  next 
morning,  where  we  received  very  kind  treatment  for  two 
days,  when  we  boarded  a  coasting  steamer  going  to 
Bengazi.  Here  we  were  given  a  complete  European 
outfit  and  entertained  by  the  British  Consul  for  ten  days, 
when  we  took  ship  for  Malta." 

And  thus,  in  due  course,  these  seamen,  after  a  series  of 
adventures  and  trials  suggesting  that  truth  is  sometimes 
stranger  than  fiction,  reached  London  on  the  morning  of 
August  29th,  seven  months  and  twenty-five  days  from  the 
sinking  of  the  Coquet. 



The  need  for  arming  all  merchant  vessels  in  a  great  war 
at  sea  was  foreseen  in  the  year  1881  by  the  late  Sir  John 
Colomb,  M.P.,  who  had  served  at  sea  as  an  officer  in  the 
Royal  Marine  Artillery.  In  a  lecture  delivered  at  the 
Royal  United  Service  Institution  in  May  of  that  year  he 

"  that  the  exigencies  of  maritime  war  will  necessitate 
our  arming  not  merely  a  careful  selection  of  the  best,  but 
every  ocean-going  British  steamer.  We  must  prepare 
in  peace  to  give  them,  at  home  and  abroad,  armaments 
and  trained  instructors,  and  then  on  the  declaration  of 
war  bid  them  follow  their  avocations  and  let  our  enemies 
know  that  we  mean  to  carry  on  our  sea  trade  '  in  spite 
of  their  teeth,'  under  the  banner,  if  you  like,  of  '  Defence 
not  Defiance.'  " 

Active  steps  were  taken  by  the  Admiralty  in  1912,  as 
described  in  Volume  I  of  this  history,  to  put  a  similar 
policy  in  practice  on  a  small  scale,  but  the  vessels  supplied 
with  defensive  armament  in  time  of  peace  carried  no 
ammunition.  On  August  5th,  1914,  the  Admiralty  decided 
to  make  arrangements  to  place  ammunition  on  board,  and 
informed  the  Foreign  Office  as  follows  : 

"  In  view  of  existing  circumstances.  My  Lords  have 
deemed  it  desirable  to  arrange  for  the  ammunition  for 
the  Admiralty  guns  to  be  placed  on  board  the  ships  as 
soon  as  opportunity  offers.  The  names  of  the  ships  so 
supplied,  with  particulars  as  to  their  proposed  destination 
and  ports  of  call,  will  be  communicated  to  the  Secretary 
of  State  as  soon  as  possible  in  each  case.  For  the  vessels 
so  fitted,  the  authority  to  state  that  no  ammunition  is  on 
board  could  no  longer  stand,  but  My  Lords  trust  that  in 


282        MERCHANT   SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE       [ch.  x 

issuing  instructions  to  the  Diplomatic  and  Consular 
representatives  on  the  point,  directions  may  be  included 
that  every  assistance  should  be  afforded  to  the  masters 
of  ships  so  as  to  avoid  or  minimise  inconvenience  or  delay." 

On  the  same  date  the  Board  of  Customs  and  Excise 
were  notified  to  the  same  effect,  and  asked  to  do  every- 
thing in  their  power  to  avoid  inconvenience  and  delay. 
Arrangements  were  also  made  for  the  necessary  order  of 
a  Secretary  of  State  for  explosives  to  be  carried  in  emi- 
grant ships,  and  the  Board  of  Trade,  in  view  of  the  fitting 
of  cooled  magazines  to  Admiralty  specification,  waived 
their  pre-war  objection  to  explosives  being  carried  in 
passenger  vessels.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that,  out  of 
the  thousands  of  British  merchant  vessels  which  were 
subsequently  armed  without  being  fitted  with  proper 
magazines,  not  a  single  case  of  spontaneous  combustion 
occurred  amongst  all  the  ammunition  carried. 

On  September  3rd,  1914,  the  Government  decided  to 
abandon  running  defensively  armed  merchant  ships  to 
United  States  ports,  without  in  any  way  waiving  the 
principle  involved.  The  Admiralty  accepted  the  Foreign 
Secretary's  view  that  the  position  must  be  reconsidered, 
and  they  were  prepared  to  concur  with  him  that,  under 
protest  and  without  surrendering  the  principle  of  interna- 
tional law  on  which  they  had  acted,  H.M.  Ambassador 
should  be  instructed  to  inform  the  United  States  Govern- 
ment that,  under  the  existing  conditions,  defensively 
armed  merchant  vessels  would  not  be  employed  in  trading 
with  United  States  ports. 

Between  the  outbreak  of  war  and  September  3rd, 
the  date  of  the  Government  decision,  ten  large  vessels,  in 
addition  to  those  already  armed,  had  been  selected  by  the 
Admiralty  to  receive  defensive  armament  of  6-inch  guns. 
These  vessels  were  the  Grampian  and  Scotian  (Allen  Line)  ; 
the  Montreal,  Manitoba,  and  Montezuma  (C.P.R.)  ;  the 
Arabic,  Adriatic,  and  Baltic  (White  Star)  ;  and  the  Haver- 
ford  and  Merion  (International  Navigation  Company).  The 
armament  of  these  vessels  was  either  in  place,  or  in  pro- 
cess of  being  mounted,  at  the  time,  but  they  were  then 
disarmed  or  work  was  suspended  on  them.  Three  of  the 
ships  armed  before  the  war,  the  Idaho,  Colorado,  and 
Francisco,  were  also  disarmed  for  the  same  reason. 


In  January  1915  the  developing  menace  of  submarine 
attack  wrought  a  revolution  in  the  problem  of  defending 
merchant  shipping  at  a  time  when  the  utmost  pressure 
was  being  put  on  the  armament  firms  for  guns  for  the 
naval  and  military  forces.  On  February  4th,  1915,  the 
Germans  issued  the  proclamation  declaring  certain  waters 
to  be  a  "war-zone,"  within  which  all  merchant  vessels 
would  be  destroyed.  This  action  raised  an  imperative 
need  for  additional  protection  for  British  merchant  ship- 
ping ;  but  although  the  proclamation  modified  in  detail  the 
problem  of  defensive  armament,  the  essential  principles 
were  unchanged.  The  origin  of  defensive  armament  was 
to  enable  merchant  ships  to  defend  themselves  from  the 
attacks  of  enemy  armed  merchantmen,  improvised  as 
raiders.  The  additional  danger,  after  the  proclamation, 
arose  chiefly  from  the  fact  that  submarines  carrying  guns 
could  approach  without  being  seen  and  disappear  at  will. 
Even  with  a  very  light  gun,  a  submarine  could  force  an 
armed  merchant  ship  to  surrender,  unless  the  merchant- 
man could  either  outstrip  the  enemy  or  could  be  protected 
by  an  armed  vessel.  It  was  still  the  problem  of  a  mer- 
chant ship  attacked  by  a  lightly  armed  raider  of  a  different 
description.  If  the  merchant  ship  could  be  armed,  even 
lightly,  the  submarine  would  be  faced  with  difficulties  in 
attacking  an  unarmed  enemy  with  a  higher  and  steadier 
gun-platform  and  better  facilities  for  observation.  The 
merchant  ship,  it  is  true,  presented  a  larger  target,  but  a 
single  hit  on  the  submarine  stood  a  good  chance  of  sinking 
her,  or  of  making  it  impossible  for  her  to  dive.  Another 
advantage  of  defensive  armament  was  that  it  prevented 
the  submarine  from  approaching  to  close  range,  and  it  is 
not  easy  at  long  ranges  to  sink  a  merchant  vessel  by  light 
gunfire.  For  such  reasons  the  defensive  armament  of 
merchant  ships  necessitated  an  increase  in  the  size  and 
weight  of  armament  carried  by  the  submarine,  in  order  to 
ensure  superiority.  This  margin  could  only  be  obtained 
at  the  expense  of  other  fighting  qualities  of  the  submarine, 
such  as  speed.  It  was  not  until  1916,  when  a  year's 
experience  had  been  obtained,  that  all  these  advantages 
were  fully  realised.  Statistics  showing  the  rapid  exten- 
sion of  the  policy  of  armament  are  given  in  the  succeeding 
chapter,  on  training  the  Merchant  Service  to  fight. 

An  explanation  of  the  Admiralty  policy  of  extending 

234         MERCHANT   SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

the  defensive  armament  of  merchant  shipping  in  February 
1915  was  sent  to  shipowners  in  the  following  secret 
circular  : 

"  It  has  been  decided  to  arm  defensively  vessels  engaged 
in  local  trade,  with  one  12-pounder  gun  aft  for  defence 
against  submarine  attack.  The  Admiralty  will  pay  for 
the  cost  of  mounting  the  guns,  providing  the  mazagines, 
and  for  any  movements  of  the  ships  necessary  for  the  work 
to  be  done.  They  will  not  pay  any  compensation  for 
delay  in  resuming  trade. 

"  A  gun's  crew  of  two  men  will  be  supplied  by  the 
Admiralty  for  each  gun  ;  these  men  will  be  paid  by  the 
company,  the  money  being  refunded  by  the  Admiralty. 
The  status  of  these  ships  will  be  the  same  as  defen- 
sively armed  merchantmen.  They  will  not  be  com- 
missioned and  will  fly  the  Red  Ensign. 

"  About  one-half  of  these  ships  will  be  selected  from 
Admiralty  chartered  colliers  and  store-carriers  running 
between  east  and  west  coasts  and  France.  The  remainder 
will  be  selected  from  local  coast  trades.  The  Admiralty 
will  pay  for  replacement  after  the  removal  of  the  gun." 

When,  in  April  1915,  a  few  more  guns  were  available, 
it  was  decided  to  extend  the  principle  of  defensive  arma- 
ment from  vessels  on  coastal  voyages  to  some  of  the  larger 
classes  of  merchant  ships  engaged  in  oversea  trade.  A 
similar  circular  was  then  issued  to  shipowners,  containing 
additional  information  about  the  method  of  transferring 
guns  from  one  ship  to  another.  As  far  as  practicable, 
arrangements  were  made  to  prepare  the  vessels  thus 
affected  before  they  left  the  United  Kingdom,  or  their 
terminal  ports  abroad,  for  receiving  their  guns.  The 
general  situation  in  July  1915  was  that  British  vessels 
trading  in  the  Mediterranean  had  at  their  disposal,  at 
Gibraltar  and  Port  Said,  fifty- two  guns  of  4-7-inch  calibre, 
which  were  embarked  on  entering  the  station  and  disem- 
barked for  the  use  of  other  vessels  before  leaving.  Guns 
of  the  same  calibre  were  mounted  permanently  in  8  colliers, 
59  meat-carrying  vessels  trading  with  the  Argentine, 
Australia,  and  New  Zealand,  and  9  supply  ships  and  trans- 
ports carrying  military  stores.  Twelve-pounder  guns  of 
12  cwt.   or  of  8  cwt.   were  mounted  in  coastal    vessels 


trading  around  the  coast  of  the  United  Kingdom  and  to 
ports  in  the  North  of  France,  and  similar  guns  in  collier 
transports  and  in  transports  with  military  stores.  The 
system  of  armament  was  gradually  extended,  as  guns  and 
mountings  became  available  by  the  methods  subsequently 

From  the  outset,  the  instructions  issued  to  the  masters 
of  defensively  armed  vessels  contained  a  clause  to  the 
effect  that  the  guns  were  placed  on  board  for  defence,  not 
for  offence,  and  that  they  were  intended  as  an  effective 
help  in  the  prosecution  of  the  voyages,  the  main  object 
in  view. 

On  October  20th,  1915,  the  instructions  were  amplified. 
The  defensive  nature  of  the  armament  was  further 
emphasised,  and  the  following  principles  were  laid  down: 

"  The  Status  of  Armed  Merchant  Ships 

"  (1)  The  right  of  the  crew  of  a  merchant  vessel  forcibly 
to  resist  visit  and  search,  and  to  fight  in  self-defence,  is 
well  recognised  in  International  Law,  and  is  expressly 
admitted  by  the  German  Prize  Regulations  in  an  adden- 
dum issued  in  June  1914,  at  a  time  when  it  was  known 
that  numerous  vessels  were  being  armed  in  self-defence. 

"  (2)  The  armament  is  supplied  solely  for  the  purpose 
of  resisting  attack  by  an  armed  vessel  of  the  enemy. 
It  must  not  be  used  for  any  other  purpose  whatsoever. 

"  (3)  An  armed  merchant  vessel,  therefore,  must  not 
in  any  circumstances  interfere  with  or  obstruct  the  free 
passage  of  other  merchant  vessels  or  fishing-craft,  whether 
these  are  friendly,  neutral,  or  hostile. 

"  (4)  The  status  of  a  British  armed  merchant  vessel 
cannot  be  changed  upon  the  high  seas." 

"  Rules  to  be    Observed   in   the   Exercise   of  the   Right   of 


"  (1)  The  master  or  officer  in  command  is  responsible 
for  opening  and  ceasing  fire. 

"  (2)  Participation  in  armed  resistance  must  be  con- 
fined to  persons  acting  under  the  orders  of  the  master  or 
officer  in  command. 

"  (3)  Before  opening  fire  the  British  colours  must  be 

236         MERCHANT   SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

"  (4)  Fire  must  not  be  opened  or  continued  from  a 
vessel  which  has  stopped,  hauled  down  her  flag,  or  other- 
wise indicated  her  intention  to  surrender, 

"  (5)  The  expression  '  armament  '  in  these  instructions 
includes  not  only  cannon,  but  also  rifles  and  machine- 
guns  where  these  are  supplied. 

"  (6)  The  ammunition  used  in  rifles  and  machine-guns 
must  conform  to  Article  23,  Hague  Convention  IV,  1907  ; 
that  is  to  say,  the  bullets  must  be  encased  in  nickel  or 
other  hard  substance,  and  must  not  be  split  or  cut  in 
such  a  way  as  to  cause  them  to  expand  or  set  up  on 
striking  a  man.     The  use  of  explosive  bullets  is  forbidden. 

"  Circumstances  under  which  the  Armament  should  he 


"  (1)  The  armament  is  supplied  for  the  purpose  of 
defence  only,  and  the  object  of  the  master  should  be  to 
avoid  action  whenever  possible. 

"  (2)  Experience  has  shown  that  hostile  submarines  and 
aircraft  have  frequently  attacked  merchant  vessels  with- 
out warning.  It  is  important,  therefore,  that  craft  of 
this  description  should  not  be  allowed  to  approach  to  a 
short  range,  at  which  a  torpedo  or  a  bomb  launched 
without  notice  would  almost  certainly  take  effect. 

"  British  and  Allied  submarines  and  aircraft  have 
orders  not  to  approach  merchant  vessels.  Consequently 
it  may  be  presumed  that  any  submarine  or  aircraft  which 
deliberately  approaches  or  pursues  a  merchant  vessel  does 
so  with  hostile  intention.  In  such  cases  fire  may  be 
opened  in  self-defence  in  order  to  prevent  the  hostile 
craft  closing  to  a  range  at  wliich  resistance  to  a  sudden 
attack  with  bomb  or  torpedo  would  be  impossible. 

"  (3)  An  armed  merchant  vessel  proceeding  to  render 
assistance  to  the  crew  of  a  vessel  in  distress  must  not 
seek  action  with  any  hostile  craft,  though,  if  she  herself 
is  attacked  while  so  doing,  fire  may  be  opened  in  self- 

"  (4)  It  should  be  remembered  that  the  flag  is  no  guide 
to  nationality.  German  submarines  and  armed  merchant 
vessels  have  frequently  employed  British,  Allied,  or  neutral 
colours  in  order  to  approach  undetected.  Though,  how- 
ever, the  use  of  disguise  and  false  colours  in  order  to  avoid 

CH.  x]        EXTENT  OF  DEFENSIVE  ARMING  237 

capture  is  a  legitimate  ruse  de  guerre,  its  adoption  by 
defensively  armed  merchant  ships  may  easily  lead  to 
misconception.  Such  vessels,  therefore,  are  forbidden  to 
adopt  any  form  of  disguise  which  might  cause  them  to  be 
mistaken  for  neutral  ships." 

These  instructions  were  subsequently  revised,  amplified, 
and  finally  embodied  in  "  War  Instructions  for  Defen- 
sively Armed  Merchant  Ships." 

At  first,  owing  to  the  urgency  of  the  menace  to  mer- 
chant shipping,  it  was  necessary  to  supply  merchant  ships 
with  such  guns  as  could  be  obtained.  Guns  of  eighteen 
different  types,  British,  French,  Russian,  and  Japanese, 
from  6-inch  to  2|-pounders,  were  issued  in  the  first 
instance.  This  obviously  led  to  great  complications  in 
ammunition  supply  and  was  a  most  undesirable  system, 
but  the  only  practicable  one  until  sufficient  guns  of  stan- 
dard types  could  be  procured.  The  matter  became  still  more 
urgent  when  the  Germans  used  more  heavily  armoured 
submarines,  carrying  heavier  guns  of  5-9-inch  calibre  ;  but 
it  was  not  until  September  1917  that  sufficient  British 
guns  became  available  to  enable  the  Admiralty  to  adopt 
a  standard  system  of  defensive  armament. 

When  war  broke  out  in  August  1914,  the  service  of 
defensively  armed  merchant  ships  was  in  the  hands  of 
three  officers  and  about  twelve  other  ranks  ;  747  officers 
and  men  were  employed  on  shore  duties  in  connection 
with  defensively  armed  merchant  ships  on  November  15th, 
1918,  and  11,537  as  guns'  crews  for  the  ships — the  increase 
reflecting  the  lengths  to  which  this  development  was 
carried  under  the  compelling  influence  of  war.  The 
policy  was  originally  adopted,  as  we  have  seen,  as  a 
defence  against  surface  craft,  in  view  of  information 
received  that  the  Germans  intended  to  arm  their  merchant 
ships  as  commerce  raiders  in  time  of  war.  In  February 
1915  the  U-boat  campaign  was  launched  against  merchant 
shipping.  By  the  middle  of  May  in  that  year,  149  British 
merchant  ships  had  been  fitted  with  defensive  armament. 
By  November  1918  5,887  ships  had  been  so  fitted,  and 
1,684  of  them  had  been  lost,  leaving  a  balance  of  4,203. 
Of  these,  nearly  2,500  carried  guns  of  4-inch  calibre  or 
of  larger  size.  By  the  date  of  the  Armistice,  6,067  guns 
and  806  howitzers  had  been  mounted  in  merchant  ships. 

238         MERCHANT   SERVICE    ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

On  November  16th,  1918,  when  the  Armistice  was  signed, 
4,079  were  afloat  actually  carrying  armament.  The  follow- 
ing table  shows  the  numbers  of  British  merchant  ships 
fitted  for  defensive  armament  that  were  afloat  on  different 
selected  dates  up  to  the  end  of  1915  : 

Datfr— 1915. 

No.  of  ships  fitted 

May  14th  .... 

.      149 

June  25th 

.      212 

September  24th. 

.      219 

November  6th    . 

.     401 

December  25th  . 

.      766 

After  the  frozen-meat  vessels,  the  first  ships  to  be  armed 
defensively,  as  we  have  seen,  were  those  engaged  in  coastal 
traffic,  and  proceeding  from  the  Irish  Channel  round 
the  South  Coast  of  England  to  London.  Very  few  guns 
were  available  at  first,  and  only  a  small  proportion  of  them 
could  be  spared  for  vessels  on  the  East  Coast,  which  was 
then  comparatively  safe.  The  Channel  was  not  so  danger- 
ous as  it  became  at  a  later  period.  This  was  the  policy 
up  to  the  middle  of  May  1915,  when  the  fitting  of  the 
following  lines  was  ordered  : 



P.  &  O. 

British  India 

Anchor  Brocklebank 




T.  and  J.  Harrison. 

Blue  Fimnel  (Holt  Line). 

Defensive  armament  saved  a  number  of  ships  at  this 
period,  some  by  actual  gunfire,  some  by  moral  effect  ; 
more  guns  were  allocated  as  they  became  available,  and 
more  coastal  craft  were  armed.  At  first  there  were  not 
enough  guns  to  send  overseas,  so  all  guns,  by  a  system 
of  transfer,  were  kept  in  the  submarine  zone,  which  was 
restricted  at  the  outset,  and  the  guns  were  transferred, 
as  has  been  already  stated,  from  one  ship  to  another  for 
the  voyage.  For  ocean  voyages  one  gun  was  then  taken 
out  of  each  of  the  thirty-seven  frozen-meat  ships  origin- 
ally armed,  and  transferred  to  others.  In  May  1915 
some  of  these  guns  were  sent  out  to  Gibraltar  and  to 
Port  Said,  and  in  the  following  November  to  Dakar,  to 
be  mounted  for  the  homeward  voyage  and  replaced 
by  returning  ships,  and  this  policy  was  subsequently 
applied  to  other  overseas  ports  :  Halifax,  Sierra  Leone, 
and  Cape  Town.     The  thirty-seven  guns  were  thus  made 


to  serve  the  requirements  of  a  large  number  of  vessels. 
In  spite  of  certain  mechanical  difficulties,  such  as  the 
designing  of  special  deck-plates  to  suit  both  the  seating 
and  the  gun  when  different  natures  of  ordnance  were  being 
exchanged  from  one  ship  to  another,  the  matter  of  supply- 
ing material  was  a  comparatively  simple  one  compared 
with  training  the  Merchant  Service  to  fight  their  ships 
and  to  handle  the  guns  when  attacked.  The  training  of 
a  sea-gunner  in  the  Royal  Navy  in  normal  times  occupies 
several  months,  and  it  is  superimposed  on  a  disciplinary 
training  extending  over  many  years.  There  was  no  time 
to  apply  such  a  system  to  merchant  crews,  but  while 
skill  in  gunnery  and  facilities  for  enforcement  of  discipline 
were  lacking  in  the  Mercantile  Marine,  heroism  was  not 

A  special  system  of  training  the  Merchant  Service  to 
fight  their  own  ships  when  encountering  submarines  w^as 
established  by  the  Admiralty  in  1917.  In  the  meanwhile 
tribute  must  be  paid  to  the  patriotism  of  shipowners  who, 
in  pre-war  days,  held  out  inducements  to  their  officers  to 
join  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve.  The  fruits  of  their  efforts 
were  apparent  when  the  time  arrived  for  extending  the 
system  of  arming  merchant  ships  as  the  submarine 
menace  developed.  For  many  years  some  companies,  by 
cash  allowances  to  their  officers  whilst  undergoing  drill, 
by  giving  permission  to  serve  with  the  Navy  for  long 
periods  (up  to  two  years)  at  a  stretch  without  loss  of 
seniority,  and  by  affording  other  facilities,  were  able  to 
boast  of  a  large  number  of  R.N.R.  officers.  In  July 
1916  the  Admiralty  arranged  for  additional  officers  of  the 
Mercantile  Marine  to  undergo  a  short  course  of  gunnery  at 
the  Naval  Gunnery  School  at  Chatham. 

At  first  a  few  naval  ratings  were  lent  to  fight  the  guns 
in  the  few  merchant  ships  that  could  be  supplied  with 
armament.  Two  gunners,  the  majority  being  pensioners 
or  Royal  Fleet  Reserve  men  of  the  Royal  Marine  Artillery 
and  Infantry,  were  sent  to  each  ship  to  carry  out  the  duties 
requiring  a  special  gunnery  training,  and  to  assist  the  ship's 
crew.  These  men  actually  joined  the  Merchant  Service 
as  part  of  the  crew,  and  were  paid  by  the  shipowners 
concerned,  and  a  small  inspecting  and  training  staff  was 
established  to  superintend  matters.  By  statistics  previ- 
ously given,  we  have  seen  that  the  number  of  defensively 
ir— 17 

240         MERCHANT  SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

armed  merchant  ships  had  risen  from  thirty-nine  at  the 
outbreak  of  war  to  766  at  the  end  of  the  year  1915  ;  the 
numbers  continually  increased  as  guns  became  available, 
and  from  the  following  statistics  it  is  easy  to  realise  how 
history  repeated  itself,  and  why  British  merchant  seamen, 
like  their  ancestors  of  old,  were  called  upon  to  defend 
their  own  vessels  from  the  King's  enemies.  The  Royal 
and  Merchant  Navies,  which  had  drifted  apart  during 
many  years  of  peace  on  the  high  seas,  were  again  knit 
together  by  the  bond  of  defence  against  a  common  danger. 
The  figures  appended  give  the  number  of  British  merchant 
vessels  afloat,  fitted  with  defensive  armament,  on  certain 
selected  dates  up  to  September  1916  : 

Date — 1916.  No.  of  defensively  armed 

ships  afloat. 

Febniary  15th.  .  .  .  .  .991 

April  12th 1,109 

September  18th 1,749 

Apart  from  the  question  of  gun  armament,  shipowners 
were  recommended  by  the  Admiralty  from  the  earliest  days 
of  the  war  to  provide  their  vessels  with  rifles  for  use 
against  aircraft  and  submarines,  and  for  the  purpose  of 
sinking  any  mines  that  might  be  sighted.  Pistols  were 
also  recommended  for  use  in  emergencies.  Special  instruc- 
tions bearing  on  this  point  were  issued  on  April  26th, 
1915.  The  right,  under  International  Law,  of  resistance 
and  of  fighting  in  self-defence  was  explained  in  these 
instructions,  which  contained,  amongst  others,  the  follow- 
ing clauses  : 

"  Participation  in  armed  resistance  should  be  confined 
to  persons  acting  under  the  orders  of  the  master  or  officer 
in  command.  .  ,  . 

"  The  ammunition  supplied  for  rifles  and  machine- 
guns  must  conform  to  the  requirements  of  Article  23, 
Hague  Convention  IV,  1907,  that  is  to  say,  the  bullets 
must  be  cased  in  nickel  or  other  hard  substance,  and  must 
not  be  split  or  cut  in  such  a  way  as  to  cause  them  to 
expand  or  set  up  on  striking  a  man.  .  .  . 

"  Masters  of  ships  to  which  rifles  are  issued  must  exer- 
cise a  proper  control  over  their  employment,  and  are 
responsible  for  opening  and  ceasing  fire.     Fire  must  not 


be  opened  from  a  vessel  which  has  stopped,  hauled  down 
her  flag,  or  otherwise  indicated  to  the  submarine  her 
intention  to  surrender." 

Other  clauses  of  a  general  nature  were  similar  in  the 
instructions,  specially  issued  on  April  26th,  1915,  for  the 
use  of  small  arms,  to  those  issued  on  October  20th  of  the 
same  year  for  defensive  armament  in  general,  as  quoted 
in  extenso  above. 

On  May  31st,  1915,  a  special  memorandum  was  issued 
to.masters  of  transports  carrying  troops.  This  memorandum 
pointed  out  that  heavy  rifle  or  machine-gun  fire  would 
make  it  more  difficult  for  a  submarine  to  make  a  successful 
shot  with  a  torpedo.  If  submerged,  no  injury  would  be 
done  to  her,  but  a  good  volume  of  fire  falling  just  short 
of  the  periscope  would  make  splashes,  thus  hampering  an 
observer  on  board  the  submarine  in  seeing  clearly  through 
his  periscope.  It  was  enjoined  that  military  officers  should 
be  in  command  of  the  men  to  control  both  rifle  and 
machine-gun  fire,  and  a  military  officer  on  watch  should 
be  in  command  of  the  troops  on  deck,  but  he  should  not 
order  fire  to  be  opened  upon  a  hostile  submarine  or  torpedo 
vessel  without  the  previous  assent  of  the  master  or  his 
representative — the  ship's  officer  of  the  watch.  The  use 
of  field-guns  was  not  recommended. 

Such  were  the  main  features  of  the  policy  adopted  up 
to  the  end  of  1916  for  employing  guns,  small  arms,  and 
machine-guns  to  enable  British  merchant  ships  to  defend 
themselves  from  attack.  They  were  supplemented,  about 
the  middle  of  1916,  by  the  supply  of  apparatus  for  the 
manufacture  of  smoke-screens  to  be  used  as  an  aid  to 
escape.  There  remains  the  important  question  of  the 
attitude  of  neutrals,  without  whose  concurrence  in  the 
use  of  their  harbours  by  defensively  armed  merchant 
shipping  this  policy  would  have  lost  much  of  its  effect. 

The  right  of  merchant  ships  to  carry  defensive  armament 
on  the  high  seas  is  one  of  long  standing,  and  this  right 
has  been  admitted  by  the  jurists  of  all  nations.  The 
subject  is  discussed  exhaustively  in  a  pamphlet  entitled 
Defensively  Armed  Merchant  Ships  and  Submarine  Warfare. 
Owing,  however,  to  difficulties  raised  by  certain  neutral 
countries  to  the  entry  of  armed  merchant  ships  into  their 
ports,  the  Admiralty  found  it  desirable  to  issue  a  special 

242         MERCHANT  SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

form  of  indemnification  to  owners  of  the  defensively 
armed  vessels,  reading  as  follows  : 

"  I  am  commanded  by  My  Lords  of  the  Admiralty 
to  inform  you  that  in  consideration  of  your  having,  as 

arranged,  fitted  guns  and  mountings  in  your  s.s. , 

and  of  your  carrying  ammunition  supplied  by  the  Admir- 
alty for  the  service  of  the  same,  for  the  purpose  of  providing 
for  her  defence  in  case  of  war,  My  Lords  will  keep  you 
indemnified  against  all  loss  and  expense  by  reason  thereof 
to  which  you  may  be  put." 

Between  August  7th  and  11th,  1914,  telegrams  were 
sent  to  H.M.  representatives  at  all  the  capitals  in  Europe 
and  in  North  and  South  America  directing  them  to  point 
out,  in  the  event  of  any  question  being  raised  as  to  the 
position  of  British  armed  merchantmen,  that  these  vessels 
were  armed  solely  for  defence  and  could  not  be  converted 
into  warships  on  the  high  seas,  because  Great  Britain  did 
not  admit  the  right  of  any  Power  to  do  this.  Therefore, 
there  could  be  no  right  on  the  part  of  any  neutral  Govern- 
ment to  intern  British  armed  merchantmen  or  to  require 
them  to  land  their  guns,  seeing  that  the  neutral  Govern- 
ment's duty  in  regard  to  belligerent  vessels  is  limited 
solely  to  actual  or  potential  warships. 

The  United  States,  on  August  8th,  1914,  issued  instruc- 
tions about  the  clearance  of  merchant  ships  belonging  to 
belligerent  Powers,  but  these  instructions  made  no  special 
mention  of  defensively  armed  ships.  On  August  21st 
the  State  Department  intimated  that  each  case  would  be 
dealt  with  on  its  merits,  and  that  it  would  be  a  great 
help  if  the  British  Minister  would  give  a  written  guarantee 
that  these  vessels  were  armed  only  in  self-defence,  and 
would  never  attack.  This  was  agreed  to.  On  September  1st 
a  difficulty  arose  over  the  s.s.  Adriatic,  w^hich  was  armed 
at  the  time  with  four  guns,  and  was  incorrectly  believed 
to  be  proceeding  to  Halifax  for  troops  ;  as  well  as  over  the 
s.s.  Merion,  which  arrived  at  Philadelphia  mounting  four 
guns.  The  action  taken  on  September  3rd  by  the  British 
Government  as  a  result,  and  its  influence  upon  the  defensive 
armament  of  British  merchant  shipping,  have  already 
been  described.  On  September  19th,  1915,  the  United 
States  Government  issued  detailed  conditions  governing 

CH.  x]       ATTITUDE    OF   THE   UNITED    STATES        243 

the  treatment  of  defensively  armed  merchant  ships,  the 
main  purpose  of  which  was  to  assimilate  them  completely 
to  ordinary  merchant  vessels.  Should  any  doubt  arise  as 
to  the  defensive  character  of  the  armament,  the  onus 
proba7idi  was  to  fall  on  the  masters  and  owners. 

A  considerable  number  of  vessels,  under  these  regula- 
tions, cleared  from  New  York  with  their  guns  mounted 
aft,  but  in  August  1915  the  s.s.  Waimana  was  held  up 
at  Newport  News.  She  had  been  chartered  for  two 
voyages  from  the  River  Plate  to  Marseilles  with  meat 
and  general  cargo.  One  voyage  had  been  completed, 
and  she  was  proceeding  from  Marseilles  to  Buenos  Aires 
on  the  second  voyage  via  Newport  News  for  coaling 
purposes.  Her  speed  was  moderate,  and  she  was  a 
trading  vessel  with  only  defensive  armament  of  one 
4-7-inch  gun,  which  had  been  fitted  in  her  in  London 
in  April  1915,  Two  naval  ratings  were  included  in  her 
crew.  She  arrived  at  Newport  News  at  8  a.m.  on  August 
26th,  was  ready  to  proceed  after  bunkering  at  noon  on 
August  28th,  but  was  detained  by  the  action  of  the  United 
States  Government  until  September  22nd,  and  clearance 
was  not  given  until  her  gun  had  been  landed. 

On  March  25th,  1916,  the  United  States  Government 
published  a  further  memorandum  on  the  status  of  armed 
merchant  vessels,  considering  the  subject  from  two  points 
of  view  :  firstly,  from  that  of  a  neutral  when  such  vessels 
enter  his  ports  ;  secondly,  from  the  point  of  view  of  an 
enemy  when  they  are  on  the  high  seas.  The  following 
summary  was  attached  : 

"  The  status  of  an  armed  merchant  vessel  as  a  warship 
in  neutral  waters  may  be  determined,  in  the  absence  of 
documentary  proof  or  conclusive  evidence  of  previous 
aggressive  conduct,  by  presumption  derived  from  all  the 
circumstances  of  the  case. 

"  The  status  of  such  vessel  as  a  warship  on  the  high 
seas  must  be  determined  only  by  conclusive  evidence  of 
aggressive  purpose,  in  the  absence  of  which  it  is  to  be 
presumed  that  the  vessel  has  a  private  and  peaceable 
character,  and  it  should  be  so  treated  by  an  enemy  warship. 

"  In  brief,  a  neutral  Government  may  proceed  upon  the 
presumption  that  an  armed  merchant  ship  of  belligerent 

244         MERCHANT   SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE      [ch.  x 

nationality  is  armed  for  aggression,  while  a  belligerent 
should  proceed  on  the  assumption  that  the  vessel  is 
armed  for  protection.  Both  of  these  presumptions  may 
be  overcome  by  evidence  :  the  first  by  secondary  or  col- 
lateral evidence,  since  the  fact  to  be  established  is  negative 
in  character  ;  the  second  by  primary  and  direct  evidence, 
since  the  fact  to  be  established  is  positive  in  character." 

In  the  course  of  the  memorandum  it  was  clearly  laid 
down  as  a  principle  that  merchantmen  of  belligerent 
nationality,  armed  only  for  the  purposes  of  protection 
against  the  enemy,  were  entitled  to  enter  and  leave 
neutral  ports  without  hindrance  in  the  course  of  legitimate 
trade,  and  that,  as  affecting  the  high  seas,  "•  Enemy 
merchant  ships  have  the  right  to  arm  for  purposes  of 
self-protection."  ^ 

Holland,  from  the  outset,  refused  to  admit  such  vessels 
to  her  ports,  and  this  attitude  was  maintained  until  the 
Armistice  was  signed  in  November  1918,  although  it  was 
pointed  out  that  all  other  Governments  were  admitting 
ships  so  armed  to  their  ports  on  the  same  footing  as 
ordinary  merchant  ships. 

Spain  at  an  early  stage  admitted  that  merchant  ships 
might  carry  guns  without  acquiring  the  character  of  ships 
of  war,  but  nevertheless  the  Spanish  Government  raised 
difficulties  from  time  to  time.  On  May  31st,  1915,  how- 
ever, they  issued  a  Decree  requiring  the  master  of  an  armed 
merchant  ship  to  declare  in  writing  that  his  vessel  was 
destined  exclusively  for  commerce,  that  she  would  not 
be  transformed  into  a  ship  of  war  before  returning  to  her 
own  country,  and  that  the  arms  and  ammunition  on  board 
had  been,  and  would  be,  employed  only  for  the  defence 
of  the  vessel  if  attacked.  This  arrangement  was  adhered 
to  throughout  the  war,  each  difficulty  as  it  arose  being 
made  the  subject  of  diplomatic  correspondence. 

In  Norway  a  working  arrangement  was  come  to.  Armed 
ships  did  not  visit  her  ports  at  first,  but  by  1916  it  became 
necessary  to  reconsider  the  position  in  view  of  the  increased 
activity  of  German  submarines  and  the  extended  arming 
of  the  Merchant  Service.* 

^  Revised  regxilations  were  issued  when  the  United  States  entered  the  war. 
*  The  new  arrangement  was  not  put  into  writing  until  November  1916, 
and  more  exhaustively  in  1918. 


Other  European  countries  made  no  objection,  but 
some  of  the  South  American  RepubHcs  raised  difficulties. 
Uruguay,  on  August  7th,  1914,  issued  a  decree  which 
was  considered  satisfactory.  Peru  was  not  approached 
on  the  subject  until  later  (May  1917).  Chile  made  no 
objections,  but  in  1915  required  the  arrival  of  a  defensively 
armed  merchant  ship  to  be  notified  beforehand  to  the 
Chilian  Government.  (This  was  cancelled  in  November 
1918.)  The  Argentine  Republic  ordered  defensively  armed 
vessels  to  discharge  ammunition  before  entering  Buenos 
Aires  or  La  Plata,  and  no  armed  merchantman  was 
permitted  to  leave  port  within  twenty-four  hours  of  an 
enemy  merchantman.  (Even  in  normal  times  no  mer- 
chant vessel  was  allowed  to  enter  any  Argentine  port 
with  ammunition  on  board.)  Brazil,  on  September  5th, 
1914,  while  not  regarding  armed  merchant  ships  as  priva- 
teers, saw  certain  objections,  and  suggested  that  the 
vast  naval  power  of  Great  Britain  could  find  other  means 
of  protecting  her  Mercantile  Marine.  Cuba,  in  April 
1916,  issued  a  special  decree  on  the  subject,  much  on  the 
lines  of  the  United  States  conditions  of  September  19th, 

Such,  in  brief  terms,  were  the  measures  taken  by  the 
Admiralty,  up  to  the  middle  of  1916,  to  arm  the  Merchant 
Service  for  self-protection,  and  the  steps  taken  by  the 
British  Government  to  ensure  that  vessels  so  protected 
would  be  able  to  proceed  upon  their  lawful  occasions 
with  the  necessary  access  to  neutral  harbours.  The 
effect  upon  the  Mercantile  Marine  itself  was  conspicuous. 
The  line  of  demarcation  between  the  Royal  Navy  and  the 
Merchant  Service  was  more  closely  marked  on  the  eve 
of  the  war  than  at  any  previous  date  in  our  naval  history. 
Each  had  its  own  functions  to  perform,  and  each  performed 
them  in  its  own  way.  That  the  two  services  would,  or 
indeed  could,  co-operate  closely  in  defeating  the  enemy 
at  sea  had  not  been  seriously  regarded  by  either.  The 
masters  and  other  officers  of  the  Mercantile  Marine, 
excepting  those  who  belonged  to  the  Royal  Naval  Reserve, 
would  most  certainly  have  resented  any  suggestion  that 
they  should  pass  under  the  tutelage  of  officers  whom  they 
regarded  as  belonging  to  an  entirely  distinct  organisation, 

^  A  brief  memorandum  of  the  attitude  and  requirements  of  various 
neutral  countries  was  subsequently  issued  by  the  Admiralty. 

246         MERCHANT  SERVICE   ON  DEFENSIVE     [ch.  x 

with  which  merchant  seamen  had  Httle  concern.     The 
officers  of  the   Royal  Navy,  on  the  other  hand,   never 
contemplated  in  pre-war  days  the  possibility  of  instructing 
their  brethren  of  the  Merchant  Service  in  the  best  methods 
of  defeating  the  enemy  for  themselves.     Owing  to  the 
policy   of   supplying    defensive    armament    to    merchant 
ships,   the   relationship   underwent   a   change   under  the 
influence  of  war  conditions.     The  old  barriers  which  had 
arisen  during  the  long  period  of  peace  were  gradually 
broken  down,  and  naval  and  merchant  seamen,  with  a  new 
sympathy  for  each  other,  worked  whole-heartedly  together 
in  the  common  cause.    Without  such  a  sentiment  inspiring 
both  services,  little  success  could  have  attended  the  various 
courses  which  were  first  contemplated  in  1916,  established 
in    1917,    and    constantly    developed    in    usefulness    and 
interest  until  the  conclusion  of  the  war.     The  nation  can 
contemplate  with  pride  the  splendid  manner  in  which  the 
officers  and  men  of  the  British  Merchant  Service,  old  men 
well  advanced  in  years  as  well  as  young  men,  strained 
every  effort  to  fit  themselves  to  meet  the  new  and  unex- 
pected conditions  with  which  they  were  confronted. 


OF    THE    enemy's    MINE-LAYING    ACTIVITY 

The  relation  of  Zecbrugge  to  the  Dover  Straits  resembled 
strategically,  as  has  been  stated,  that  which  Cattaro  bore 
to  the  Straits  of  Otranto.  Happily  during  the  war  the 
enemy  never  succeeded  in  capturing  the  Channel  ports, 
but  it  was  sufficiently  embarrassing  that  Zecbrugge  and 
Ostend  remained  for  practically  the  whole  of  the  period 
of  hostilities  in  German  hands.  Zecbrugge  became  an 
important  base  for  U-craft  from  the  spring  of  1915 
onward.  With  the  introduction  of  the  smaller  types  of 
submarines,  designated  UB  and  UC,  increasingly  effec- 
tive use  could  be  made  of  the  Belgian  port.  The  latter 
were  mine-layers,  and  from  the  beginning  of  June  they 
carried  on  an  almost  continuous  policy  of  laying  mines 
off  the  south-eastern  coast  of  England,  selecting  well- 
known  lightships,  prominent  headlands,  narrow  channels, 
and  certain  navigational  buoys  for  their  operations.  In 
the  course  of  the  early  summer,  however,  the  Dover 
drifters  had  enforced  such  a  measure  of  respect  on  the 
enemy  that  submarines  were  forbidden  to  attempt  the 
Dover  Straits  passage.  The  more  valuable  U-boats  especi- 
ally were  directed  to  go  north-about  into  the  Atlantic, 
usually  through  the  Fair  Island  Channel. 

The  constriction  from  which  the  enemy  was  suffering 
was  so  severely  felt  that  on  August  20th  another  effort 
was  made  to  break  tlirough  Dover  Straits,  The  sub- 
marine selected  was  the  mine-laver  UC5,  which  had 
reached  Zecbrugge  from  Germany  on  July  27th  and  then 
commenced  a  series  of  mine-laying  voyages  to  the  south- 
east coast  of  England.  Eventually,  on  April  27th,  1916, 
she  got  ashore  on  the  Shipwash  and  was  captured  ;  but 
that  is  anticipating  events.     On  August  20th,  1915,  at 


248    THE   WAR   OFF   THE   FLANDERS   COAST    [ch.  xi 

6.40  a.m.,  she  left  Bruges,  having  taken  on  board  her 
cargo  of  mines,  and  proceeded  through  Zeebrugge  lock, 
thence  passing  down  the  Belgian  coast.  At  10.20  p.m.,  at 
her  utmost  speed,  she  crossed  the  Dover  net  barrage  by 
No.  3  buoy,  on  the  surface,  and  laid  a  dozen  mines  at 
6.30  a.m.  next  day  off  Boulogne.  The  Germans  in 
Flanders  regarded  this  as  the  first  actual  submarine  success 
beyond  the  Dover-Calais  line.  Up  to  this  date  no  German 
mine -layer  had  been  able  to  penetrate  the  Straits.  The 
immediate  result  was  that  the  s.s.  William  Dawson  got  on 
these  mines  and  blew  up. 

Had  the  Germans  not  been  in  occupation  of  the  Flemish 
coast,  much  of  our  trouble  with  submarines  would  have 
never  existed.  Many  plans,  much  effort,  a  large  fleet  of 
various  types  of  ships  (especially  Auxiliary  Patrol  craft), 
and  many  valuable  officers  and  men  were  used  to  check- 
mate the  enemy's  operations  from  these  ports,  and  it  could 
never  be  said  that  the  door  had  been  effectually  closed, 
shutting  in  the  U-boats  there.  Two  days  after  UC5  had 
negotiated  Dover  Straits,  Vice- Admiral  Bacon  left  Dover 
with  a  force  of  seventy-nine  ships  to  attack  the  harbours 
and  defences  of  Zeebrugge.  In  this  operation  were  in- 
cluded such  different  types  as  monitors,  destroyers,  and 
gunboats,  as  well  as  an  aeroplane  ship,  four  vessels  carrying 
observation  towers  for  spotting,  nine  paddle-steamers  and 
many  drifters. 

The  monitors  were  the  bombarding  force,  the  paddlers 
acted  as  the  mine-sweepers,  and  the  drifters  laid  their  nets 
round  the  monitors  as  a  protection  against  submarine  at- 
tack. Four  of  the  paddlers,  including  the  Brighton  Queen, 
were  drawn  from  Grimsby  ;  they  met  Admiral  Bacon's 
fleet  off  the  Galloper  Lightship,  took  station  ahead  and 
began  sweeping  from  five  miles  south-east  of  North  Hinder 
Lightship  to  one  mile  south-west  of  Thornton  Ridge. 
Two  of  the  observation  towers  w^ere  dropped  five  miles 
N.  by  W.  and  the  other  two  six  miles  north-north-east 
respectively  off  Zeebrugge  pier.  The  five  paddlers  from 
Dover  swept  ahead  of  the  eastern  ships,  and  the  Grimsby 
paddlers  swept  ahead  of  the  western  ships.  When  the 
observation  towers  had  been  placed  in  position  and  the 
sweepers  were  in  the  middle  of  turning,  the  enemy  batteries 
opened  fire  and  continued  a  fusillade  for  fifteen  minutes. 
No  damage  was  done  to  any  of  the  British  ships,  but  three 


of  the  Grimsby  paddlers  had  narrow  escapes,  then'  kites 
being  shot  away. 

All  the  sweepers  then  swept  round  the  monitors  inside 
the  drift  nets  until  9  a.m.,  when  course  was  shaped 
for  the  North  Hinder  Lightship,  the  paddlers  again 
sweeping  ahead  of  the  fleet.  These  four  Grimsby  paddlers 
performed  most  useful  work  in  sweeping  and  piloting 
the  observation  ships  into  prearranged  positions,  and 
received  about  a  dozen  salvoes,  several  of  which  strad- 
dled the  sweepers.  The  drifters,  to  the  number  of  about 
fifty,  formed  a  kind  of  "  zareba "  round  the  monitors 
and  enabled  the  latter  to  bombard  Zeebrugge  from  5.30 
a.m.  for  two  and  a  half  hours  at  16,000  yards,  the  scheme 
being  to  destroy,  if  possible,  both  lockgates  and  submarine 
base.  Soon  after  8  a.m.,  all  the  objectives  aimed  at 
having  been  either  damaged  or  destroyed,  the  operation 
ended  and  the  fleet  returned  to  their  bases. 

On  this  occasion  the  Flanders  submarines  did  not  attack 
any  vessel  of  the  British  force,  probably  because  the  enemy 
feared  a  landing  was  about  to  take  place  and,  therefore, 
was  keeping  back  his  UB  boats  till  a  later  stage  in  the 
proceedings.  From  the  middle  of  August  they  were  much 
used  by  the  Germans  as  advance  patrols  off  the  Flanders 
coast  owing  to  the  disturbing  effect  which  Admiral  Bacon's 
continual  bombardment  was  having  on  the  Teuton  nerves. 
To  thwart  our  monitors,  the  UC  boats  had  to  be  content 
to  confine  themselves  to  mining  the  narrow  passages 
between  the  banks  off  the  Belgian  and  French  coasts. 

On  September  6th  the  Admiral  again  took  his  ships 
over  to  the  Flemish  coast.  At  11.30  p.m.,  having  reached 
the  appointed  position,  sweeping  operations  began  and 
went  on  throughout  the  night  until  five  in  the  morning. 
Misty  weather  interfered  with  the  scheme,  but  at  8  a.m. 
the  paddlers  from  Grimsby  proceeded  ahead  of  the  fleet  to 
the  anchorage  whence  the  bombardment  was  to  take  place. 
What  work  for  ordinary  fishermen  !  At  noon  the  paddlers 
were  attacked  by  enemy  aircraft,  two  bombs  dropping 
close  to  the  starboard  sponson  of  one  of  the  vessels.  An 
hour  later  the  fleet  weighed  again,  and  proceeded  to  an 
area  off  Ostend,  the  paddlers  sweeping  ahead  and  being 
subjected  to  heavy  fire  from  guns  of  large  calibre ;  two 
shells  fell  close  under  the  counter  of  one  paddler,  severely 
jarring  the  ship.     After  not  quite  an  hour,  the  fleet  ceased 

250    THE  WAR  OFF  THE  FLANDERS  COAST    [ch.  xi 

firing  and  shaped  a  course  for  the  North  Foreland,  the 
paddlers  sweeping  ahead  of  them  once  more.     Again  the 
monitors    had    damaged   the    submarine    workshops    and 
harbour  works,  and  again  it  was  reported  that  "  the  assist- 
ance rendered  by  the  auxihary  craft  was  most  valuable." 
But  almost  simultaneously  UC5  had  been  at  work.     At 
6.48  a.m.  on  September  7th  she  had  laid  half  a  dozen  mines 
off  Boulogne  and  another  six  that  night  off  the  "  Folke- 
stone Gate,"  which  was  used  to  regulate  the  traffic  passing 
off  that  part    of  the  coast.      As  a  result    the  cable-ship 
Monarch  next  day  was  blown  up  and  sunk.     Here,  as 
usual,  the  armed  trawlers  were  on  the  spot  to  do  their 
duty,    and    by   this    means    seventy-five    survivors    were 
brought  into  Dover.     Assisted  by  the  trawler  Neptunian, 
Lieutenant  Alfred  H.  Barnes,  R.N.R.,  commanding  officer 
of  the  trawler  Macfarlane,  did  excellent  work  in  rescuing 
the  Monarch'' s  crew  by  his  coolness  and  good  organisation. 
The  result  of  Admiral  Bacon's  attacks  on  the  Flemish 
coast  was,  as  has  since  become  known  from  German  sources, 
that  UB  boats  had  to  be  kept  as  permanent  outposts  by 
Middelkerke  and  the  Thornton  Ridge  buoy.     In  this  way 
the    UB    boats    were    prevented    from  operating  on    the 
merchant  shipping  tracks  and  the  enemy  had  to  rely  on 
his  mine-laying    UC    boats.      At   the   end  of  September 
severe  I  attacks  on  the  UBs  and  UCs,  both  outgoing  and 
homecoming,  were  made   by  British  craft,   one   boat  of 
each  type  being  damaged.     On  September  25th  Admiral 
Bacon  again   bombarded  the  enemy's   coast,  the  object 
being  to  feign  a  landing  and  thereby  aid  Sir  John  French, 
who  was  about  to  launch  an  attack  on  land  farther  to  the 
southward.     Once   more  the  Auxiliary   Patrol  craft  did 
their  share  of  the  work.     The  monitors  bombarded  Knocke, 
Heyst,     Zeebrugge,     and    Blankenberghe,    during    which 
operations    drifters    used   their   nets.     It    was    while   the 
drifters  were  boarding  their  nets  later  on  that  the  Hyacinth 
was  shelled,  fifteen  6-inch  projectiles  falling  so  close  that 
they  deluged  the   drifter   with  water.     Notwithstanding 
this.    Skipper   Laurence    Scarlett,    ably    assisted    by    his 
second   hand,   T.   J.  Prior,  and  the    crew,  stuck  to    the 
work  and  safely  got  all  the  nets  and  net-mines  aboard 
before  leaving.     "  I  would  submit,"  wrote  Admiral  Bacon 
to  the  Admiralty,  "  that  this  skipper's  work  is  worthy  of 
the  best  traditions  of  the  sea  service,  more  especially  as 


his  instructions  admitted  of  his  sHpping  his  nets  and  re- 
tiring without  them."  This  gallant  skipper  was  awarded 
a  D.S.C.  and  Prior  received  a  D.S.M. 

During  the  winter  it  was  not  possible  to  do  much  off  the 
Belgian  coast  owing  to  unfavourable  weather  conditions, 
but  operations  were  resumed  in  the  following  April.  The 
total  number  of  vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  serving  in 
the  various  areas  and  zones  at  sea  had  reached  2,236,  and 
included  yachts,  whalers,  trawlers,  drifters,  paddlers, 
"  M.L.s,"  motor-drifters,  and  motor-boats.  Of  the  craft 
a  considerable  proportion  were  based  on  Dover,  where 
during  the  winter  Admiral  Bacon  had  been  making  elabo- 
rate plans  for  a  new  effort  to  checkmate  the  enemy's 
Flemish  submarine  flotilla,  and  his  other  craft.  These 
plans  began  to  be  put  into  effect  on  April  24th,  1916,  so 
as  to  restrict  the  movements  of  the  Flemish  naval  forces 
to  one  small  channel  off  West  Capelle  on  the  Dutch  coast. 
Thus,  instead  of  having  to  keep  watch  on  the  whole  coast, 
the  egress  and  ingress  of  submarines  and  other  vessels 
could  be  checked  at  this  one  "  gate."  To  the  enemy 
these  measures,  it  was  assumed,  would  be  inconvenient 
in  that  120  miles  would  be  added  to  the  length  of  a  sub- 
marine's round  trip  from  Ostend  to  the  English  Channel. 
The  barrage,  it  was  realised,  would  need  to  be  patrolled 
so  as  to  prevent  the  enemy  from  damaging  the  line  of  nets, 
or  attacking  the  drifters  who  would  have  to  keep  the 
nets  in  good  condition,  but  that  responsibility  was  ac- 

The  mine-nets,  then,  were  to  be  laid  so  as  to  restrict  the 
activities  of  enemy  craft,  British  destroyers  protecting  the 
drifters  and  their  nets.  But  the  enemy's  destroyers  had 
a  gun-range  of  2,000  yards'  superiority  over  that  of  the 
British  destroyers,  mounting  4-inch  guns.  In  these  cir- 
cumstances it  was  decided  to  station  monitors  with  a  view 
to  their  engaging  the  enemy's  destroyers  and  acting  as 
a  rallying-point  for  the  British  destroyers.  It  was  recog- 
nised that  the  enemy  destroyers  could  always  retreat 
under  the  protection  of  the  coast  batteries  ashore.  This 
would  not  matter,  however,  as  the  purpose  in  view  was 
the  preservation  of  the  barrage.  There  was,  of  course, 
the  possibility  of  the  enemy's  destroyers  trying  to  rush 
the  monitors,  but  the  British  destroyers  were  charged 
with  the  duty  of  preventing  this  as  well  as  warding  off 

252    THE  WAR   OFF   THE   FLANDERS   COAST    [ch.  xi 

attacks  by  submarines.     Later  on  "  M.L.s  "  and  coastal 
motor-boats  were  also  used  for  patrolling  the  barrage. 

It  would  have  been  incorrect  to  call  this  arrangement  a 
blockade  for  the  reason  that  it  was  not  technically  effective. 
The  absence  of  a  perpetual  night  patrol  and  the  existence 
of  an  exit  by  Dutch  territorial  waters  made  it  not  impossible 
for  enemy  craft  to  emerge  from  Zeebrugge.     That  the 
barrage  accomplished  all  that  was  hoped  cannot,  with 
the    knowledge   which  has   since    become    available,   be 
claimed.     This  much,  however,  may  be  said.     It  caused 
the  enemy  to  be  on  the  qui  vive  all  the  time,  interfered 
with  his  free  navigation,  and  definitely  brought  about  the 
loss  of  several  submarines.     On  the  other  hand,  it  em- 
ployed scores  of  ships,  with  their  crews  numbering  hundreds 
of  men,  which  might  have  been  employed  in  more  active 
operations.     The   net-line   was   examined   daily,   weather 
permitting,  and  whenever  possible  the  15-inch  monitors 
fired  a  few  rounds  at  Ostend  and  Zeebrugge.     Our  patrols 
were  ordered  to  keep  outside  the  range  of  18,000  yards  ;  the 
shooting  of  the  shore  batteries  was  excellent  up  to  a  much 
greater  range.      M.L.s  were  used  to  make  smoke  screens 
with  which  to  hide  the  targets.     The  shore  batteries,  in 
turn,  used  smoke  screens  to  hide  themselves  from  the 
monitors.     The  conditions  were  those  of  an  elaborately 
staged  game  of  hide-and-seek  in  which  the  fishermen  stood 
to  suffer  most. 

It  had  been  intended  to  lay  this  barrage  on  April  8th, 
but  the  scheme  had  to  be  postponed  until  April  24th. 
The  plan  of  the  barrage  involved  the  use  of  mines  and  net- 
mines.     The  mines  were  to   be  laid  by  the   mine -layers 
Orvieto,  Paris,  Princess  Margaret,  and  Biarritz,  all  being 
merchant   ships   taken  up  for   the  period  of   hostilities. 
The  eastern  end  of  the  line  of  mines  was  to  be  laid  by  the 
trawlers  Welheck,  Carmania,  Osta,  Shackleton,  Ostrich,  and 
Russell,  which  could  go  into  the  shoal  water  which  was 
impossible  for  the  bigger  mine-layers  and  could  advance 
to   within   four   miles    of   Dutch   territorial   waters.     To 
seaward  of,  and  covering,  the  line  of  mines,  the  drifters 
laid  their  explosive  nets,  while  farther  to  seaward,  still 
other  drifters  had  been  ordered  to  lay  their  nets  parallel 
with  the   West   Hinder  shoal,   about  thirty  miles   from 
Ostend,  in  order  to  catch  home-coming  U-boats.     The 
last-mentioned  were  indicator  nets,  and  were  not  part  of 

CH.  XI]  UBS,  UIO   AND   UC5   CAUGHT  253 

the  barrage,  which  was  laid  27,000  yards  from  the  Tirpitz 
batteries  at  Ostend.  These  batteries  straddled  the 
monitor  General  Wolfe  at  32,000  yards  on  the  very 
day  the  barrage  began  to  be  laid,  an  incident  wliich  conveys 
some  idea  of  the  dangers  which  were  run  by  the  men 
engaged  on  the  barrage. 

The  preliminaries  began  on  April  21st,  when  paddlers 
swept  the  channel  between  the  Dyck  and  Inner  Ratel, 
as  well  as  other  channels,  on  the  eve  of  a  startling  move. 
This  precaution  was  adopted  because  it  was  expected  that 
an  enemy  mine-layer  had  been  at  work  :  six  German  mines 
were  thus  accounted  for.  To  assist  the  navigation  of  the 
mine-layers,  dan  buoys  were  laid  by  drifters  and  M.L.s. 
The  bigger  mine-layers  which  have  been  mentioned  laid 
their  1,421  mines  in  the  line  planned,  beginning  at  5  a.m., 
April  24th  ;  they  steamed  at  14  knots  in  a  smooth  sea. 
At  10.30  a.m.  the  six  trawlers  began  to  lay  their  mines 
at  6  knots,  each  trawler  laying  twenty-four.  During  the 
month  of  May  these  ex-merchantmen  and  trawlers  pro- 
longed the  western  end  of  the  double  line  of  mines  laid  on 
this  day,  and  filled  in  the  gaps  between  the  shoals  south- 
ward to  the  Belgian  coast  off  Furnes.  The  general  effect 
was  thus  to  make  a  barrage  from  La  Panne  to  the  Dutch 
waters.  It  was  a  great  undertaking — daring  and  original 
— but  it  required  a  great  deal  of  constant  attention  to 
maintain  it  in  an  efficient  state.  The  weather  was  not 
helpful  in  this  respect,  and  there  was  always  the  possibility 
of  the  enemy  coming  out  and  tampering  with  nets  or  net- 
mines,  so  that  constant  vigilance  had  to  be  observed. 

Two  submarines,  UBS  and  UlO,  were  destroyed  by  this 
means,  in  addition  to  UC5,  which  was  caught  in  a  mine 
but  extricated  herself.  The  loss  of  UBS  was  solely  and 
entirely  due  to  the  drifters.  On  April  24th,  Sir  Reginald 
Bacon  had  placed  a  number  of  drifters  about  thirty  miles 
off  Ostend,  parallel  with  the  West  Hinder  shoal.  Here 
they  anchored  with  their  indicator  nets  out,  flanking  the 
lines  of  mines  and  mine-nets  which  were  being  laid  a  little 
nearer  the  shore,  the  intention  being  to  entrap  any  Flanders 
submarines  that  might  be  making  for  Ostend  or  Zeebrugge. 
At  2.51  p.m.  the  drifter  Gleaner  of  the  Sea  was  lying  at 
anchor  in  lat.  51°  31'  N.,  long.  2°  50'  20"  E.,  with  her  nets 
out  astern.  To  the  north-east  and  south-west  of  her 
were    other   drifters    similarly   disposed,   the   whole   line 

254    THE  WAR  OFF   THE  FLANDERS   COAST    [ch.  xi 

extending  about  fourteen  miles.  At  this  precise  moment 
UBS  endeavoured  to  get  through  the  Hne,  but  fouled  the 
cable  of  the  Gleaner  of  the  Sea,  which  was  riding  to  fifteen 
fathoms  of  chain  with  twenty-five  fathoms  of  wire  shackled 
on,  as  drifters  often  did,  the  water  at  this  spot  being  about 
ten  fathoms.  Suddenly  the  watch  on  deck  heard  an 
unusual  noise — the  sound  of  something  grinding  on  the 
wire,  and  at  once  went  forward  to  see  what  was  the  matter. 

Then  UBS  was  observed  on  the  wire.  Skipper  R.  G. 
Hurren  was  called  from  below  and  rushed  up  on  deck. 
He  seized  a  lance-bomb  and  threw  it  on  the  foredeck  of 
the  submarine,  causing  a  great  explosion,  the  water  flying 
over  the  drifter's  deck  forward.  The  submarine  sank  at 
once  down  the  wire,  which  parted,  and  then  she  went  to 
the  bottom,  a  hole  having  been  blown  in  her.  Skipper 
Hurren  immediately  ordered  "  Full  speed  ahead "  and 
fired  a  signal  rocket,  his  idea  being  to  tow  his  nets  round 
the  spot  where  the  submarine  had  sunk,  and  thus  imprison 
her.  But  on  looking  astern  and  seeing  a  large  "  boil  of 
water,"  he  thought  UBS  was  coming  up  to  the  surface. 
He  therefore  ordered  the  nets  to  be  slipped,  as  he  was 
going  to  ram  the  enemy.  On  steering  over  the  spot  it 
was  obvious  that  the  German  had  settled  down,  and  that 
air  was  coming  up.  He  therefore  dropped  another  lance- 
bomb  and  marked  the  place  with  a  dan  buoy. 

Presently  the  drifter  E.E.S.  (Lieutenant  R.  J.  Har- 
land,  R.N.R.)  arrived  and  dropped  four  more  bombs, 
one  of  which  exploded.  After  the  explosion  oil  and 
bubbles  came  to  the  surface.  At  3.55  p.m.  Destroyer 
Afridi  arrived  on  the  scene  and  fired  her  explosive  sweep 
over  the  spot  where  the  oil  was  still  coming  up.  Thus 
ended  the  life  of  another  submarine,  thanks  to  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol.  The  Admiralty  awarded  Skipper  Hurren  a  D.S.C., 
and  a  D.S.M.  was  given  to  one  of  his  crew.  The  sum  of 
£1,000  was  also  awarded  to  the  fishermen,  of  which  a 
special  share  was  apportioned  to  Skipper  Hurren  for  his 
prompt  action.     This  share  amounted  to  £389. 

In  addition  to  the  actual  destruction  of  one  submarine, 
the  day's  operations  had  been  successful,  for  a  double 
line  of  mines  fifteen  miles  long  had  been  laid,  and 
thirteen  and  a  half  miles  of  moored  nets  besides  fourteen 
light  buoys  which  were  to  define  the  barrage  for  the  safety 
of  the  craft  ordered  on  patrol  during  the  ensuing  months. 


This  Belgian  barrage  was  completed  later  on.  If  the 
officers  and  men  who  had  been  employed  in  laying  and 
maintaining  the  barrage  required  encouragement,  they 
obtained  it  from  the  destruction  of  UlO.  A  fleet  of  mine- 
nets  had  been  laid  by  drifters  on  May  7th,  1916,  reinforcing 
this  barrage  line  in  a  position  due  north  of  Ostend.  There 
they  remained  until  July  15th,  when  the  drifters  were 
sent  to  replace  them  with  new  ones.  While  the  original 
mines  were  being  hauled  aboard,  the  eighth  net  was  found 
to  be  missing,  the  mines  in  it  having  been  fired.  It  was 
evident  that  a  submarine  had  tried  to  break  through, 
fouled  the  net,  and  been  blown  up  by  the  net-mines.  As 
the  drifter's  crew  went  on  hauling  the  remaining  nets, 
there  came  to  the  surface  the  body  of  a  German  petty 
officer,  dressed  in  a  double-breasted  coat  with  white 
metal  buttons.  He  was  a  naval  telegraphist.  Together 
with  the  body  were  found  the  man's  pass  issued  by  the 
harbour-master  at  Bruges,  his  identity  disk,  and  so  on. 
The  name  of  the  man  was  thus  discovered.  Three  days 
after  this  the  German  naval  casualty  list  of  July  18th 
contained  the  name  of  this  man  as  well  as  twenty-nine 
others  as  "  missing,  probably  dead."  It  is  now  known 
that  this  submarine  was  UlO,  though  it  is  impossible  to 
say  on  which  of  the  days  between  May  7th  and  July  15th 
she  actually  succumbed  to  the  drifter's  nets. 

By  May  26th  the  whole  of  this  barrage  had  been 
laid.  Thirty  little  drifters,  most  of  them  built  of  wood 
and  able  to  steam  not  more  than  8  knots,  or  9  at  their 
very  best,  had  gone  shooting  and  repairing  these  nets 
within  fifteen  miles  of  the  enemy's  coast  with  its  powerful 
batteries.  It  was  a  great  achievement,  and  one  which 
exactly  suited  the  training  and  temperament  of  these 
fishermen.  Losses,  of  course,  there  were,  both  this  year 
and  during  the  preceding  autumn.  Having  regard  to  the 
proximity  of  the  enemy's  naval  forces,  his  well-placed 
shore  guns,  and  his  mines,  this  was  to  be  expected  ;  the 
surprising  part  is  that  so  few  ships  were  lost.  On  the 
occasion  of  the  bombardment  of  September  25th,  1915, 
already  referred  to,  the  armed  yacht  Sanda  was  struck  by 
gunfire  and  sunk  with  the  loss  of  four  officers  and  eleven 
men.  Her  crew  belonged  to  the  Mercantile  Service,  but 
her  captain  was  Lieutenant-Commander  H.  T.  Gartside- 
Tipping,  R.N.,  who  had  been  retired  from  active  service  in 


256    THE  WAR  OFF  THE  FLANDERS  COAST    [ch.  xi 

the  Navy  many  years  before  the  opening  of  the  war.  In 
his  retirement  he  had  shown  an  enthusiastic  interest  in 
the  Royal  National  Lifeboat  service.  On  the  outbreak 
of  war  he  had  come  back  to  sea,  in  spite  of  his  advanced 
years,  and  served  in  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  in  command  of 
this  yacht,  being  the  oldest  naval  officer  afloat.  Thus 
perished  a  very  gallant  and  patriotic  gentleman. 

The  operations  off  the  Belgian  coast  for  1915  had  ended 
on  November  19th.  In  summing  up  what  had  been 
accomplished,  Admiral  Bacon  remarked  : 

"...  But  more  remarkable  still,  in  my  opinion,  is  the 
aptitude  shown  by  the  officers  and  crews  of  the  drifters  and 
trawlers,  who  in  difficult  waters,  under  conditions  totally 
strange  to  them,  have  maintained  their  allotted  stations 
without  a  single  accident.  Moreover,  these  men  under 
fire  have  exhibited  a  coolness  well  worthy  of  the  personnel 
of  a  service  inured  by  discipline.  The  results  show  how 
deeply  sea  adaptability  is  ingrained  in  the  seafaring  race 
of  these  islands.  .  .  .  The  mine-sweepers  under  Commander 
W.  G.  Rigg,  R.N.,  have  indefatigably  carried  out  their 
dangerous  duties." 

Such  was  the  verdict  upon  the  part  taken  by  the  fisher- 
men in  the  1915  campaign.  We  had  lost,  unfortunately, 
the  paddler  Brighton  Queen.  At  two  in  the  morning  of 
October  6th,  1915,  when  mine -sweeping  off  Nieuport,  she 
was  about  to  head  for  Dunkirk  when  she  struck  a  mine 
which  exploded  under  her  paddle-box.  Boats  were  at 
once  lowered  from  all  the  other  ships,  but  seven  lives  were 
lost.  Mine-sweeping  during  the  hours  of  darkness  always 
proved  an  intensely  nerve -wracking  and  perilous  operation. 
On  different  occasions  long-distance  torpedoes  were  fired 
at  these  paddlers  while  sweeping,  and  on  this  particular 
night  several  star-shells  were  discharged  from  the  shore, 
brilliantly  lighting  up  the  ships  and  rendering  them  easily 
recognisable  targets. 

The  loss  of  the  Brighton  Queen  was  a  matter  of  peculiar 
regret.  This  excursion  steamer  had  been  the  first  paddler 
to  be  taken  up  in  September  1914,  and  had  during  the 
following  months  assisted  in  the  destruction  of  mines 
whose  total  value  was  much  greater  than  her  own.  She 
had  been  the  means  of  saving  a  considerable  amount  of 

CH.  XI]  A   LESSON   IN   STRATEGY  257 

shipping  as  well  as  many  lives,  and  had  been  most  busily- 
employed  in  many  parts  of  the  North  Sea — wherever, 
indeed,  a  new  mine-field  had  to  be  swept  up.  As  the 
Admiral  in  charge  of  the  mine-sweepers  remarked :  "  With 
mine  below  and  bombs  from  above,  in  addition  to  torpedoes 
from  submarines  and  heavy  gunfire  from  the  shore,  these 
sweepers  have  so  far  borne  somewhat  of  a  charmed  life 
which  could  hardly  be  expected  to  continue  indefinitely." 
The  Brighton  Queen  was  called  upon  to  pay  the  price. 

In  the  laying  of  the  barrage  on  April  24th,  1916,  one 
drifter  was  also  lost.  A  division  of  these  craft,  under 
Lieutenant  Crafter,  R.N.R.,  had  been  engaged  laying  their 
mine-nets  at  the  eastern  end  of  the  line  so  as  to  catch 
any  submarines  which  might  try  to  work  round  the  flank 
of  the  light  buoys  and  attack  the  forces  operating.  The 
division  consisted  of  eight  drifters  which,  owing  to  a 
mistake,  were  left  during  the  night  at  the  far  end  of  the 
line  without  support.  The  result  was  that  they  had  to 
steam  forty-five  miles  down  a  hostile  coast  to  Dunkirk. 
During  this  passage  they  were  chased  by  three  German 
destroyers.  One  of  the  drifters,  the  Au  Fait,  was  severely 
damaged  by  shell-fire  and  was  captured,  the  crew  being 
taken  prisoners.  The  drifter  Clover  Bank,  whilst  laying 
nets  on  the  same  day,  ran  over  some  of  the  mines  which 
had  just  been  laid,  and  was  blown  up.  A  mistake  had 
been  made,  for  the  nets  should  have  been  laid  half  a  mile 
seaward  of  the  lines  of  mines. 

The  Belgian  coast  barrage  was  maintained  until  the  bad 
weather  set  in  during  October  1916.  In  the  meantime  it 
had  been  reinforced  by  mine-fields  and  mine-nets.  It 
had  been  patrolled  except  when  weather  conditions  were 
unfavourable ;  but  notwithstanding  it  was  a  great  incon- 
venience to  the  enemy,  it  had  not  assisted  the  Allied 
cause  very  materially.  Admiral  Bacon  realised  this,  and  in 
his  appreciation  of  the  situation  informed  the  Admiralty : 

"  The  situation  on  the  Belgian  coast  can  be  summed 
up  briefly  by  saying  that  we  can  do  no  real  good  from 
the  sea  until  backed  up  by  an  advance  on  land  ...  no 
permanent  damage  can  be  done  by  gunfire ;  it  can  only 
be  looked  on  as  a  preparation  to  assist  a  force  which  will 
permanently  occupy  the  damaged  positions." 

This   lesson   in   strategy   had    been    expounded   years 

258    THE  WAR   OFF  THE  FLANDERS  COAST    [ch.  xi 

before  the  war,  and  the  difficulty  as  perceived  afresh  off 
the  Belgian  coast  was  identically  that  which  made  of  no 
avail  the  work  of  our  naval  forces  at  the  Dardanelles. 
It  is  appropriate  to  add  that  it  had  been  realised,  as  soon 
as  the  enemy  captured  the  Belgian  coastline,  that  the 
eventual  success  of  any  naval  operations  depended  on  the 
co-operation  of  the  Army.  Unfortunately  the  Army  was 
not  free  to  take  its  share  in  the  work,  and  so  the  auxiliary 
craft,  in  association  with  the  vessels  of  the  Dover  Patrol, 
had  to  do  as  best  they  might  under  adverse  conditions. 
"  The  drifters,"  Admiral  Bacon  remarked,  "  have  laid  out, 
weighed,  and  dealt  with  the  moored  nets  off  the  enemy's 
coast  partially  under  the  range  of  their  batteries,  and  have 
watched  the  nets  under  conditions  when  it  was  possible  to 
afford  them  little  support,  but  their  duties  have  always 
been  well  and  promptly  carried  out." 

From  October  1916  the  barrage  remained  unpatrolled  ; 
the  nets  were  left  to  look  after  themselves  ;  and  the  enemy 
could,  and  doubtless  did,  interfere  with  it  and  make  gaps 
for  his  submarines  to  pass  tlirough.  It  was  not  until  the 
summer  of  1917  that  it  was  once  more  rendered  efficient. 
To  criticise  this  campaign  off  the  Flemish  coast  would  be 
e£,sy  enough,  and  in  the  light  of  later  study  of  the  plans 
and  operations  there  are  lessons  to  be  learned  and  faults 
to  be  avoided.  But  the  situation  was  a  difficult  one  and 
the  general  outlook  was  none  too  hopeful.  The  Allied 
armies  could  not  advance  along  the  coast,  and  therefore  the 
defended  base  of  the  enemy  submarines  could  not  be 
destroyed.  Even  if  the  barrage  had  been  made  of  solid 
concrete  instead  of  more  or  less  frail  nets,  the  submarines 
could  never  have  been  contained  within  Flemish  waters. 
They  had  to  go  a  long  way  out  of  their  way  close  to  the 
south-western  coast  of  Holland,  and  these  submarine 
tracks  became  known  to  the  naval  authorities.  In  the 
later  stages  of  the  war  an  attempt  was  made  to  mine  this 
exit  just  short  of  neutral  seas  ;  but  it  was  just  this  neutral 
stretch  of  Dutch  waterway  which  made  the  whole  idea  of 
the  barrage  impracticable.  In  pre -submarine  days  it 
would  not  have  mattered  much.  In  the  case  of  any  surface 
ship  using  territorial  waters  she  could  have  been  seen. 
But  the  U-boats  at  Zeebrugge  could  negotiate  the  Dutch 
channels  between  the  sandbanks,  either  by  day  or  by  night. 
If  by  day,  they  would  be  submerged  and  unseen  ;    if  by 


night  they  would  be  very  difficult  to  observe,  and  at  any 
moment  could  dive  to  periscope  depth  and  evade  the 
neutral  patrol,  however  vigilant.  Thus  a  German  advanced 
base  existed  almost  at  the  eastern  mouth  of  the  English 
Channel :  it  was  like  bringing  Heligoland  so  many  miles 
nearer  England.  The  base  could  not  be  wiped  out ;  it 
succoured,  refitted,  revictualled,  replenished  with  mines 
and  ammunition,  and  refreshed  the  tired  crews  of  the 
U-boats,  UBs,  UCs,  just  as  often  as  they  had  orders  to 
come  in  and  out  of  Zeebrugge  and  up  to  Bruges.  Strategic- 
ally this  base  was  well  placed  for  offensive  operations, 
either  by  mine  or  torpedo,  or  by  machine-gun  or  heavier 
armament  upon  the  swept  channel  which  began  at  the 
Downs  and  extended  north  to  about  the  Firth  of  Forth. 
It  was  difficult  enough  to  prevent  such  attacks,  for  the 
reason  that  the  naval  authorities  were  short  of  ships. 
The  demand  for  destroyers  and  craft  for  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  went  on  incessantly  :  the  most  that  could  be  done 
in  those  critical  times  was  to  carry  on  with  exiguous  forces. 
The  Auxiliary  Patrol  was  concerned  with  mines  as  well 
as  submarines.  The  enemy's  mine-laying  operations 
throughout  the  war  may  be  divided  into  two  periods. 
From  August  1914  until  June  1915  all  the  mines  were  laid 
by  surface  ships.  From  June  1915  to  the  end  of  hostilities 
practically  all  the  mine-fields  were  laid  by  submarines, 
though  there  were  several  important  exceptions.  The 
Southwold  mine-field  had  been  allowed  to  remain  practically 
intact  except  for  certain  passages  through  it  which  were 
swept,  unknown  to  the  enemy,  as  a  matter  of  convenience. 
The  Humber  mine-field  continued  to  exist,  though  parts 
of  it  were  swept  in  the  spring  and  early  summer  of  1916, 
the  trawlers  Or  cades  and  Alberta  being  mined  and  sunk  in 
the  process.  The  Tyne  mine-field  remained  as  before. 
On  June  11th,  1915,  the  Outer  Silver  Pit  mine-field  was 
discovered  by  the  foundering  of  the  fishing-trawler  Dovey. 
It  was  wrongly  supposed,  at  first,  that  this  was  part  of  the 
Humber  mine-field,  the  north-west  portion  of  which  was 
swept  up  in  June  1915,^  The  Tory  Island  mine-field,  laid 
in  the  autumn  of  1914,  continued  to  give  a  good  deal  of 
trouble  to  the  sweepers,  and  it  was  not  until  March  1916 
that  it  was  declared  clear.     The  Scarborough  mine-field 

^  The  south-east  end  was  swept  up  a  year  later,  by  which  time  several 
other  fishing-trawlers  had  been  blown  up  in  the  field. 

260    THE  WAR  OFF  THE  FLANDERS   COAST    [ch.  xi 

had  long  since  been  dealt  with,  though  an  odd  mine  was 
found  off  that  part  of  the  Yorkshire  coast  in  September 
1915.  The  Swarte  Bank  mine-field  continued  in  existence 
during  the  summer  of  1915,  but  was  cleared  by  the  middle 
of  August.  The  Dogger  Bank  mine-field,  laid  fork-shaped 
in  the  middle  of  the  North  Sea  towards  the  end  of  May  1915 
and  discovered  by  fishing-trawlers,  had  been  defined  by 
the  sweepers,  and  as  late  as  September  1915  the  Dutch 
s.s.  Eemdijk  foundered  on  it.  Thanks,  however,  to  the 
work  of  the  trawlers,  the  enemy's  object — the  entrapping 
of  the  Grand  Fleet — had  been  frustrated. 

On  either  August  7th  or  8th,  1915,  a  big  mine-field  was 
laid  across  the  Moray  Firth  by  the  German  armed  auxiliary 
Meteor,  which  sank  the  armed  boarding-steamer  The 
Ramsay.  Nearly  400  mines  were  laid  in  zigzag  lines. 
The  mine-field  was  soon  discovered  and  no  harm  came  to 
any  portion  of  the  Grand  Fleet.  It  involved,  of  course, 
heavy  and  dangerous  work  for  trawlers,  paddlers,  and 
sloops,  but  by  the  middle  of  October  of  the  same  year 
249  mines  had  been  destroyed — a  very  fin,e  record  !  On 
New  Year's  Day  1916  the  raider  Mowe  laid  about  200 
mines  between  Sule  Skerry  and  Cape  Wrath  in  a  rough 
semicircle,  thus  fouling  the  western  approach  to  Scapa 
Flow,  and  causing  the  loss  of  the  battleship  King 
Edward  VII  five  days  later.  In  this  instance  also 
the  mine-sweepers  had  the  difficult  job  of  carrying  out 
their  work  exposed  to  the  full  force  of  the  Atlantic,  as 
had  been  the  case  off  Tory  Island.  It  was  a  slow,  tedious 

The  proceedings  of  the  mine-laying  craft  became  so 
persistent  and  thorough,  when  once  they  had  begun  in 
June  1915,  that  it  is  impossible  to  deal  with  them  in  detail. 
With  the  regularity  almost  of  a  freighter,  the  UC-boats 
would  load  up  with  mines  at  Bruges,  pass  out  through  the 
Zeebrugge  locks,  cross  the  North  Sea,  and  lay  the  mines 
off  such  positions  as  the  Shipwash,  Sunk,  South  Goodwin, 
Kentish  Knock,  Stanford  Channel,  Elbow  Buoy,  Le  Havre, 
Boulogne,  Black  Deep,  Edinburgh  Lightship,  Aldeburgh 
Napes,  and  so  on.  Having  deposited  their  cargoes,  they 
would  go  back  to  Bruges  and  come  out  with  another  lot. 
In  this  way  not  only  were  heavy  losses  caused  to  British 
and  neutral  shipping,  but  the  demands  on  the  trawler  and 
paddler  mine-sweepers  rapidly  increased.     The  neighbour- 


hood  of  important  lightships  and  headlands  had  to  be 
swept  regularly  ;  long  traffic  lanes  up  the  coast  had  to  be 
maintained  in  a  swept  condition  ;  and  the  casualty  lists 
of  the  sweepers  and  crews  began  to  mount  up.  The  loss 
of  life  came  with  appalling  suddenness.  Dutch  mail- 
steamers,  Trinity  House  pilot-ships,  British  hghtships, 
steamers  of  all  sizes,  including  the  P.  &  O.  liner  Maloja, 
were  blown  up  and  many  lives  sacrificed. 

All  sections  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol,  which  were  not 
employed  in  sweeping,  were  necessarily  engaged  in 
locating  these  mine-layers.  Drifters  laid  their  nets  in 
likely  areas,  and  occasionally  the  enemy  would  either  be 
destroyed  or  he  would  founder  on  his  own  mines,  as  was 
the  case  with  UC9  in  October  1916.  Mines  are  blind  ; 
they  have  no  respect  for  one  particular  ship  more  than 
another.  On  November  17th,  1915,  the  hospital  ship 
Anglia  foundered  on  mines  laid  off  Dover  by  UC5.  This 
had  the  effect  of  stopping  for  a  while  all  cross-Channel 
traffic,  and  the  enemy  thus  assisted  his  own  armies.  On  the 
same  day  that  the  Anglia  blew  up,  a  Greek  steamer  and  a 
Norwegian  vessel  hit  mines  off  the  Galloper  Lightship. 

The  essential  effect  of  all  this  intensive  mine-laying  by 
the  enemy  was  that  patrol-trawlers  had  to  be  ready  to 
turn  over  to  mine-sweeping  when  required  and  thus  "  work 
double  tides."  Gradually  the  mining  areas  spread  as  far 
north  as  the  Humber  and  as  far  west  as  the  Needles. 
Then  from  April  1916  there  appeared  the  first  U-boat 
mine -layers,  who  could  go  farther  afield  and  carry  more 
mines  than  the  Flanders  boats.  Mines  were  now  laid  off 
the  Firth  of  Forth,  off  the  Orkneys  (causing  the  loss  of 
H.M.S.  Hampshire  with  Lord  Kitchener  on  board). 
Thence  onwards  the  campaign  extended  to  almost  every 
area  of  the  British  Isles  where  shipping  was  wont  to 
voyage.  The  north  of  Scotland,  west  and  south  of  Ireland, 
and  the  Irish  Sea  were  affected  ;  mines  were  laid  off  the 
port  of  Liverpool ;  the  Isle  of  Man  ;  in  the  Bristol  Channel ; 
off  the  various  headlands  and  harbour  entrances  of  the 
English  Channel  ;  the  overseas  submarines  were  able  to 
deposit  their  explosive  cargoes  even  off  certain  ports  in 
the  Bay  of  Biscay  as  well  as  in  the  Mediterranean,  whereas 
at  one  time  the  UC-boats  based  on  Flanders  had  been 
limited  to  the  south-eastern  ports  of  the  English  coast. 
The  latter  had  begun  by  carrying  only  a  dozen  mines, 

262    THE  WAR   OFF  THE  FLANDERS   COAST    [ch.  xi 

but  the  U-boat  mine-layers  which  made  their  appearance 
early  in  1916  had  space  for  as  many  as  thirty-four.  Even- 
tually they  were  able  to  lay  mines  in  districts  so  far  apart 
as  the  White  Sea  in  the  north  and  the  west  coast  of  Africa 
in  the  south. 

The  Admiralty  had  good  reason  to  commend  the 
persistent  work  of  the  mine-sweepers  during  the  first  two 
years  of  the  war  ;  for  in  this  period  they  succeeded  in 
destroying  3,567  German  mines.  By  the  end  of  the  year 
1916  the  number  had  been  increased  to  4,574,  figures  which 
indicate  sufficiently  the  thoroughness  of  the  mine-sweepers' 
operations  ;  but  nearly  400  vessels  had  been  sunk  or 
damaged  in  carrying  out  the  work.  Some  idea  of  the 
enemy's  persistency  can  be  formed  when  it  is  stated  that 
between  the  Sunk  and  Cross  Sands  Lightships — a  regular 
traffic  lane  where  ships  were  passing  at  almost  every  hour  of 
the  day — thirty-one  German  mines  were  destroyed.  In  the 
Harwich  area  the  enemy  was,  of  course,  aiming,  not 
merely  at  the  merchant  shipping,  but  at  Commodore 
Tyrwhitt's  light  cruisers  and  destroyers.  The  Germans 
therefore  plastered  these  shallow  waters  pretty  thoroughly 
as  soon  as  suitable  submarine  mine-layers  were  available, 
and  during  the  year  1916  the  sweepers  in  this  area  alone 
destroyed  over  400  mines  ;  U-boats  during  the  same  year 
laid  exactly  seventy-two  mines  in  the  White  Sea,  and  all 
but  thirty  of  them  were  located  by  trawlers  and  destroyed 
during  the  same  season  before  the  ice  froze  in.  Operations 
had  to  cease  on  December  1st,  some  of  the  trawlers  and 
colliers  going  to  Romanoff,  while  the  rest  crossed  the 
North  Sea  to  Lerwick.  The  traffic  in  the  White  Sea  was 
heavy  at  this  stage,  as  the  enemy  had  surmised,  and  the 
trawlers  well  deserved  the  extra  week's  leave  which  was 
awarded  them  on  their  return  for  their  good  service. 

Before  the  end  of  the  year,  an  alteration  had  been  made 
in  the  administration  of  the  mine-sweeping.  Originally 
Admiral  Charlton  had  been  in  charge  of  the  mine-sweeping 
department  at  the  Admiralty.  He  had  been  succeeded 
by  another  Admiral  ;  but  from  December  18th,  1916,  these 
operations  were  delegated  to  a  Captain  of  Mine-sweeping 
under  the  new  Anti- Submarine  Division.  The  title 
"  Captain  of  Mine-sweeping "  was  later  on  altered  to 
"  Superintendent  of  Mine-sweeping,"  and  in  October  1917 
the  mine -sweeping  operations  came  under  a  "  Director  of 


Mine-sweeping,"  who  controlled  all  mine-sweeping  in  home 
waters,  was  responsible  for  the  distribution  of  mine-sweep- 
ing vessels,  and  advised  the  naval  staff  at  the  Admiralty 
on  the  subject  of  mine-sweeping  abroad,  for  during  1916 
the  enemy  submarines  had  been  laying  mines  off  the 
Italian  and  French  ports,  especially  off  Genoa,  Marseilles, 
Taranto,  Gallipoli  (Italy),  Brindisi,  Venice,  Valona,  Corfu, 
Bizerta  and  Oran.  Similarly  off  Cretan  ports,  off  Milo, 
in  the  Zea  Channel,  off  Salonika,  Mudros,  Port  Said, 
Alexandria,  and  Malta  these  unwelcome  cargoes  were 
deposited  with  disastrous  results  to  merchant  shipping. 
Paddlers  and  trawlers  and  M.L.s,  as  well  as  drifters,  were 
being  dispatched  from  England,  but  the  enemy  was  also 
replenishing  his  forces  by  sending  out  more  submarines 
from  Germany. 

At  home  serious  losses  of  mine-sweeping  craft  were  being 
sustained.  Trawlers  are  comparatively  deep-draught 
vessels,  especially  aft,  and  risks  had  to  be  accepted  as 
inevitable.  Paddlers  were  being  employed  more  and 
more  because  of  the  shallowness  of  their  hulls,  and  they 
were  on  the  whole  not  unlucky.  But  this  is  not  to  say  that 
they  did  not  suffer  ;  when  the  fatal  moment  came  for  them 
it  arrived  quickly,  as  in  the  case  of  the  two  paddlers  Totnes 
and  Ludlow.  Four  days  after  Christmas  they  were  sweep- 
ing off  the  ShipAvash  Lightship  when  both  were  mined 
within  a  few  minutes  of  each  other.  The  former  had  her 
bows  blown  off  and  the  latter  lost  her  stern.  The  Totnes 
was  towed  into  Harwich,  but  the  Ludlow  sank  during  the 

The  bra  very  of  the  mine-sweepers  constitutes  a  fine  record 
of  the  war.  From  the  moment  that  the  ship  put  to  sea 
in  the  early  morning  before  the  other  craft  were  allowed 
to  move,  she  was  really  in  action.  When  and  where  or  at 
what  depth  below  the  surface  mines  would  be  found  it 
was  impossible  to  say.  There  was  no  preliminary  bom- 
bardment to  announce  the  enemy's  oncoming  ;  there  were 
no  scouting  forces  to  foretell  an  engagement.  The  trawlers 
might  sweep  for  a  week  and  not  find  a  mine,  and  then  of  a 
sudden,  in  an  unusual  place,  they  would  come  upon  a  little 
patch  ;  some  of  the  mines  would  be  caught  in  the  wire 
sweeps,  but  others,  or  perhaps  a  stray  mine,  would  just 
be  close  enough  to  catch  the  trawler's  heel,  and  up  she 
would   go,   and   after  the   column   of  black  smoke   had 

264    THE   WAR   OFF   THE   FLANDERS  COAST    [ch.  xi 

disappeared  to  leeward,  there  would  be  no  trawler  ;  only  a 
few  bits  of  wreckage  would  remain  with  two  or  three  of 
the  crew  in  life-saving  belts  swimming  near  them  ;  a  stray 
corpse  or  two  would  be  seen  going  silently  down  with  the 
tide.  To  see  such  things  happen,  and  to  go  out  day  after 
day,  for  months  on  end,  doing  the  same  risky  work,  perhaps 
being  fired  at  by  a  submarine  in  the  distance,  required 
courage  and  grit.  But  it  did  not  end  there.  At  times 
more  than  this  was  required,  and  this  little  bit  more  meant 
a  good  deal  to  the  winning  of  the  war.  In  the  first  part 
of  the  campaign  the  British  mines  were  not  satisfactory, 
and  a  good  deal  could  be  learnt  from  the  enemy.  Orders 
were  issued,  therefore,  that,  if  possible,  a  German  mine  was 
to  be  removed  whole  so  that  it  might  be  examined  by  the 
British  experts.  The  recovery  of  such  a  dangerous  thing 
as  a  mine  is  a  very  different  thing  from  merely  destroying 
it,  especially  as  it  was  known  that  about  the  only  inefficient 
thing  about  a  German  mine  was  the  safety  device.  Never- 
theless the  task  had  to  be  done,  and  the  following  incident 
illustrates  the  way  the  mine-sweeping  personnel  furnished 
knowledge  to  the  Admiralty. 

In  the  course  of  sweeping  the  Moray  Firth  in  September 
1916,  a  mine  was  caught  in  Cullen  Bay  and  buoyed.  The 
next  procedure  was  to  get  it  into  shallow  water.  This 
was  accomplished  by  employing  rowing-boats,  which  passed 
a  wire  with  a  long  loop  of  chain  round  the  mine  and  thus 
swept  it  up  to  the  surface.  Then,  with  considerable  risk 
and  no  little  skill,  the  mine  was  cut  from  its  moorings  and, 
in  spite  of  a  heavy  autumn  swell,  was  towed  into  Burghead 
Bay  and  moored.  After  darkness  had  set  in,  the  paddler 
Glen  Usk  kept  her  searchlight  playing  on  the  mine  and 
warned  off  approaching  vessels.  On  the  following  day 
the  mine  was  safely  towed  towards  the  shore  by  the  boats 
of  the  two  paddlers,  St.  Elvies  and  Glen  Usk,  and  beached. 
The  whole  operation  of  lifting  the  mine  on  to  the  shore  was 
very  dangerous,  especially  when  it  was  discovered  that 
the  detonator  was  jammed,  but  both  mine  and  sinker  were 
recovered  complete.  This  was  a  notable  achievement, 
inasmuch  as  many  attempts  had  previously  been  made  to 
salve  sinkers,  but  without  success.  The  naval  authorities, 
as  a  result  of  this  successful  and  plucky  operation, 
were  able  to  carry  out  some  highly  satisfactory  experi- 


5ff    SHETLAND  1^ 

is      oRKNEV  isi^wns 


(''  ^^    ^S    C    0    T    I,   A   N   J)      / 

'•f    Z.  J'' 



S         F.        A 

s  ;"  Hull, 


D    K    N    M    -^  R    Iv    . 




'  I    S    I    S    H        S   E  .1       '  l™„.„sf;;;i^j  ^((^ 

I     K     K     I,    A    N    n  1.  1  ,    .     „,  Cr.msb,    f-^    I 1., 

E     N      (J     1,     A     N     ji'""-"'^ 





(i     K     H      M     A     N    Y       I 



■   ""OEtencl  NAntvverp 

^<;bis  H      K.     1.     (.      1      V      M 

land*  End  (^f~~, 
Scillyli  :■  \iiard  Hd 


AUTUMN  OF  1915. 


-v^ — > 

Mine  Are3%  1     — I 

Headquarters  of  the   Auxil/iary    Patrol   Aress    m    Red 

A  N 



"  I  beg  respectfully,"  wrote  Commander  Gervase  W.  H. 
Heaton,  R.N.,  who  was  in  charge  of  these  paddlers,  "  to 
bring  to  your  notice  the  magnificent  work  of  the  individual 
boats'  crews,  who  when  within  feet  of  the  mine  carried 
out  their  work  jokingly — and  especially  the  names  of 
Temporary  Lieutenant  William  Highton,  R.N.R.,  of  the 
St.  Elvies,  and  William  Westborough,  C.P.O.,  of  the  St. 
Elvies.  This  officer  and  petty  officer  never  left  the  mine 
for  a  moment,  and  by  their  resource  and  endeavours  were 
mainly  responsible  for  the  safe  accomplishment  of  the 

"  Much  ingenuity,  pluck,  and  good  seamanship  were 
shown,"  wrote  Admiral  Jellicoe  to  the  Admiralty,  "  and 
all  parts  of  the  mine  and  sinker  were  recovered."  ''  The 
general  tone  of  those  present,"  reported  Captain  L.  G. 
Preston,  R.N.,  who  was  in  charge  of  the  Fleet  Sweepers, 
"  struck  me  in  the  light  of  a  picnic-party."  The  Admiralty 
sent  a  letter  of  appreciation  to  these  gallant  mine-sweepers, 
who,  had  they  been  asked,  would  have  stated  that  they 
preferred  this  sort  of  dangerous  "  picnic  "  every  day  of 
the  war  rather  than  the  uneventful  monotony  which  was 
the  main  characteristic  of  their  routine,  week  after  week. 


FISHING-CRAFT    ON    WAR   SERVICE,    1915-16 

In  an  earlier  chapter  particulars  were  given  of  the  develop- 
ment before  the  war  of  the  Royal  Naval  Motor-Boat  Re- 
serve. By  February  1915  188  of  these  craft  had  been 
pressed  into  the  national  service.  Scotch  motor  fishing- 
boats  were  also  included  in  the  force.  With  it  were  associ- 
ated 272  R.N.V.R.  officers  and  about  450  motor  mechanics 
ratings  and  skippers.  They  were  employed  at  such  differ- 
ent stations  as  Scapa  Flow,  Cromarty,  Firth  of  Forth, 
Humber,  Great  Yarmouth,  Harwich,  Dover,  Portsmouth, 
Plymouth,  on  the  seaward  end  of  the  army's  line  in 
Flanders  (based  on  Dunkirk),  and  eventually  in  Egypt, 
Malta,  and  Smyrna.  Originally  they  were  intended  to 
examine  the  coasts  and  inlets,  but  it  was  realised  in 
March  1915  that  not  in  every  case  were  they  so  employed. 
Being  built  originally  for  summer  yachting,  they  were 
not  seaworthy  enough  at  sea,  fast  enough  for  offensive 
work,  nor  sufficiently  stoutly  built  to  carry  armament 
even  if  such  had  been  available.  For  the  most  part 
they  were  being  employed  during  these  early  months 
for  such  duties  as  dispatch-carrying,  harbour-policing, 
traffic  control,  boarding,  and  so  on.  These  amateur  sailors 
had  created  a  most  favourable  impression  and  were 
obviously  suited  for  better  craft.  In  July  of  this  year  it 
was  decided  that  the  Royal  Naval  Motor-Boat  Reserve, 
which  had  been  administered  by  a  separate  committee 
at  the  Admiralty,  should  be  amalgamated  with  the  organi- 
sation known  as  the  Yacht  Patrol,  which,  in  turn,  presently 
changed  its  official  name  to  the  Auxiliary  Patrol. 

The  need  for  more  seaworthy,  faster,  and  better-armed 
motor-craft  began  to  be  considered  in  the  spring  of  1915 
during  Lord  Fisher's  regime  as  First  Sea  Lord.  The  result 
was  that  on  April  9th,  1915,  a  contract  was  signed  for  fifty 
motor-launches — to  be  built  on  the  other  side  of  the  North 


CH.  XII]  M.L.s    VARIED    DUTIES  267 

Atlantic.  Three  months  later  the  number  on  order  was 
increased  to  550.  The  pattern  boat  was  built  at  Bayonne, 
New  Jersey,  U.S.A.,  where  all  the  initial  work  was  carried 
out.  The  twin  sets  of  engines  were  also  made  in  the  United 
States,  but  the  assembling  of  the  craft  was  done  at  Quebec 
and  Montreal.  The  later  M.L.s  (after  the  first  fifty  had 
been  begun)  were  slightly  longer,  being  80  feet  long,  and 
each  boat  was  fitted  with  a  pair  of  220-h.p.  motors,  twin 
screws.  The  M.L.s  were  afterwards  put  in  cradles  and 
shipped  to  England,  four  at  a  time,  on  the  decks  of  trans- 
ports. It  is  a  notable  fact  that  the  whole  550  M.L.s  were 
built  in  488  days.  As  these  craft  began  to  arrive,  they 
found  their  crews  awaiting  them.  By  the  end  of  August 
1915  R.N.V.R.  officers  were  being  recalled  from  the  R.N. 
motor-boats  for  courses  of  instruction  at  Portsmouth  for 
service  in  the  M.L.s. 

On  September  1st  six  of  these  M.L.s  reached  Ports- 
mouth from  the  other  side  of  the  Atlantic.  The  engines 
were  overhauled,  and  a  fortnight  later  the  trials  of  the 
13-pounder  guns  mounted  in  them  took  place.  Experi- 
ments were  made  with  these  M.L.s  at  sea  soon  after 
arrival,  and  it  was  ascertained  that  with  careful  handling 
they  could  keep  the  sea  in  fair  weather,  but  that  with  a 
following  sea  great  caution  would  be  required.  Their 
fine  form  forward  and  the  flat  transom  stern  aft  caused 
them  to  bury  their  bows  and  broach  to.  However,  the 
primary  aim  of  the  design  was  speed — to  rush  towards 
a  submarine — and  it  is  not  easy  to  obtain  in  an  80-foot 
boat  accommodation  for  officers  and  men,  extreme 
mobility,  good  sea-keeping  qualities,  and  the  stoutness 
requisite  for  mounting  a  gun  forward.  Like  all  other 
ships  that  have  ever  been  built,  the  M.L.s  were  a  com- 
promise. They  were  not  ideal  craft,  but  in  the  hands  of 
trained  yachtsmen,  with  crews  of  fishermen  and  others, 
they  performed  really  excellent  work  during  the  war. 
They  were  ableto  sweep  up  mine-fields  where  deeper-draught 
craft  dared  not  venture  :  they  maintained  a  patrol  all 
round  the  coast,  as  well  as  in  the  Mediterranean,  in  the 
Otranto  Straits,  in  Egyptian  waters,  in  the  West  Indies, 
and  so  on  ;  they  assisted  in  convoying  merchant  ships  ; 
when  organised  into  hydrophone  hunting  flotillas,  they 
harried  the  U-boats,  and,  as  is  known  from  enemy  sources, 
were  much  feared  by  the  German  seamen.     Apart  from 

268  FISHING-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

contributing  indirectly  to  the  destruction  of  various  sub- 
marines, the  M.L.s  on  more  than  one  occasion  did 
definitely  and  directly  send  enemy  submarines  to  their 
doom.  On  October  14th  M.L.s  1,  2,  and  3  were  com- 
missioned at  Portsmouth.  On  the  21st  M.L.4  left  Ports- 
mouth, reached  London  the  following  day,  and  was  in- 
spected off  the  Thames  Embankment  by  representatives 
of  the  Admiralty.  During  that  autumn  and  the  early 
months  of  the  next  year,  Portsmouth  continued  to  fit  out 
these  craft,  and  gradually  every  base  in  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  areas  had  its  own  M.L.  flotilla.  Some  were  shipped 
again  aboard  transports  and  sent  out  to  the  Suez  Canal 
and  Adriatic.  Others  proceeded  on  their  own  power,  by 
way  of  the  French  canals,  to  the  Mediterranean.  In  these 
various  ways  a  new  force  was  added  to  the  Royal  Navy 
in  home  as  well  as  distant  waters. 

In  no  area  were  M.L.s  more  useful  than  in  the  Dover 
Patrol,  especially  in  connection  with  the  Belgian  coast 
barrage  and  the  Dover  barrage.  During  the  autumn  of 
1914  British  and  French  mines  had  been  laid  in  the  southern 
part  of  the  North  Sea  for  the  protection  of  the  Dover 
Straits  and  English  Channel  against  possible  attack  on 
the  cross-Channel  transports  by  means  of  surface  vessels. 
At  that  time  the  British  mines  were  not  very  satisfactory, 
and  many  of  these  so-called  mine-fields  had  broken  adrift 
owing  to  the  weak  character  of  the  mooring  wires.  In 
January  1915  Lord  Fisher  advocated  further  mining  of  the 
Dover  Straits,  and  on  the  4th  of  the  following  month  the 
laying  of  the  first  Dover  barrage  was  begun.  The  scheme 
was  that  mines  should  stretch  irregularly  from  north  of 
Dunkirk  across  the  Straits  to  a  little  east  of  Elbow  Buoy, 
near  Broadstairs.  The  operation  was  completed  by 
February  16th.  This  barrage  was  well  to  the  north-east- 
ward of  the  Straits.  Nominally  it  existed  until  the  spring 
of  1918,  but  on  sweeping  over  it  the  barrage  was  found  to 
be  non-existent,  and  it  may  be  assumed  now  that,  for  the 
reason  just  mentioned,  it  existed  only  on  paper  except 
for  a  very  short  period.  To  the  south-west  of  this  barrage 
was  the  line  of  Dover  drifters  riding  to  their  nets  across 
the  Straits.  Although  for  a  time  these  nets  did  actually 
foil  the  enemy  submarines  and  deny  to  them  the  passage 
of  the  Straits,  yet,  by  the  autumn  of  1915,  the  enemy 
had  learned  the  trick  of  dodging  these  nets  at  night  ;   he 










CH.  xii]  THE  DOVER  BARRAGE  269 

succeeded,  in  fact,  in  finding  gaps,  of  which  he  made  use. 
It  was  all  very  well  to  take  a  chart  and  draw  a  line  across 
the  Straits  and  point  to  the  fact  that  the  straight  line 
represented  an  obstruction  of  nets.  In  practice  this  did 
not  exist.  The  tides  in  the  Straits  are  strong,  and  the 
nets  had  to  be  towed  across  the  tide  ;  therefore,  what 
with  this  natural  disadvantage,  and  the  fouling  of  nets 
on  submerged  wreckage  which  had  existed  for  many  years, 
in  association  with  the  difficulties  caused  by  darkness  and 
bad  weather,  it  was  not  possible  to  regard  this  net  barrage 
as  a  rigid,  inflexible,  impenetrable  barrier. 

The  first  really  effective  cross-Channel  barrage  was  that 
which  was  laid  between  December  17th,  1916,  and  February 
8th,  1917.  This  extended  from  the  South  Goodwins  to 
the  Snow  and  consisted  of  moored  mine-nets  and  deep 
mines.  The  mine-nets,  instead  of  being  towed  by  the 
drifters,  were  secured  to  buoys  and  were  thus  securely 
sustained.  These  buoys  were  numbered  OA,  lA,  2A,  and 
so  on,  smaller  buoys  being  laid  in  between  them.  On  the 
southern  side  were  placed  a  line  of  light  buoys  every  three 
miles,  the  object  being  to  prevent  the  patrols  getting  foul 
of  this  barrage.  Secret  gaps  were  left  to  permit  craft  to 
go  across  to  the  Belgian  coast  in  safety,  and  these  were 
frequently  changed  so  as  to  deceive  the  enemy.  The 
laying  and  maintaining  of  this  net  barrage  was  the  work 
of  the  Dover  drifters.  It  was  kept  patrolled  by  about 
twenty-four  drifters,  by  the  Dover  M.L.s,  and  by  other 
craft.  Thirty  more  drifters  were  used  for  laying  the  nets. 
Thus,  theoretically,  by  the  use  of  lines  of  mines,  lines  of 
nets,  and  patrol-vessels  the  Dover  Straits  were  rendered 
impassable  to  enemy  craft. 

In  actual  experience,  it  should  be  added,  this  Dover 
barrage  was  not  a  complete  success.  Owing  to  bad 
weather  and  the  strong  tides,  the  nets  could  never 
be  maintained  in  an  efficient  condition.  Moreover,  the 
German  submarines  were  able,  by  picking  their  way 
at  night,  to  cross  the  nets,  usually  by  drifting  over  them 
at  high  water.  Secondly,  the  mines  unfortunately  dragged 
their  moorings  and  fouled  the  nets,  and  by  the  spring  of 
1917  became  a  serious  danger  to  our  vessels  working  about 
the  nets.  When,  eventually,  in  the  early  part  of  1918,  it 
was  established  beyond  all  manner  of  doubt  that  this 
cross-Channel  barrage  was  not  stopping  the  submarines, 

270  FISHmC-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

it  was  abandoned.  The  buoys  and  nets — or  as  many  as 
still  existed — were  left  in  position  and  not  replaced  when 
they  broke  adrift.  This  decision  naturally  released  a  large 
number  of  small  craft  for  other  work.  "  There  is  no  doubt," 
Admiral  Bacon  has  stated  in  The  Dover  Patrol  1915-17, 
that  "  this  barrage  never  stopped  submarines  passing  .  .  . 
it  was  an  undoubted  deterrent  to  destroyers."  It  may  be 
added  that  it  was  not  until  we  became  possessed  of  efficient 
mines  and  gear  that  it  was  possible  to  make  the  straits  a 
terror  to  German  submarines.  When  improved  mines 
were  available,  the  laying  of  the  Folkestone-Grisnez  deep 
mine-field  was  undertaken — in  the  winter  of  1917-18.  It 
had  not  been  quite  completed  by  the  time  the  Armistice 
arrived,  but  it  may  be  said  at  once  that,  owing  to  this 
very  thorough  barrage  and  the  restless  activity  of  the 
vigilant  destroyers  and  small  craft  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol, 
the  passage  of  the  Dover  Straits  by  enemy  submarines  was 
made  as  nearly  as  possible  a  superhuman  task. 

On  the  other  side  of  the  Channel,  vessels  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  were  assisting  the  French  Navy  and  protecting  from 
submarines  transports  which  were  sustaining  the  Allied 
armies.  The  approaches  to  Le  Havre,  for  very  obvious 
reasons,  M'ere  a  favourite  region  for  German  submarines. 
It  was  their  practice  to  lie  about  in  this  area,  lay  mines, 
and  attack  incoming  steamers  carrying  stores  for  the 
Western  Front.  A  number  of  British  drifters  had  there- 
fore been  based  on  this  harbour.  Just  before  5  o'clock 
on  the  morning  of  April  5th,  1916,  Lieutenant  J.  M'Lough- 
lin,  R.N.R.,  who  was  in  charge  of  half  a  dozen  British  net 
drifters  at  Havre,  was  informed  by  the  French  authorities 
that  a  submarine  had  been  sighted  in  the  Roads  near  the 
Whistling  Buoy.  He  immediately  ordered  the  Endurance, 
Welcome  Star,  Stately,  Comrades,  Pleiades,  and  Pleasance, 
to  proceed  to  sea  as  soon  as  the  tide  served.  At  7.40  a.m. 
they  left  port  and  at  10.15  a.m.  the  Pleiades  shot  her  net 
two  miles  west  of  the  Whistling  Buoy,  the  other  drifters 
following  suit. 

Just  as  the  net  drifter  Endurance  was  shooting  her 
nets,  there  were  indications  that  a  submarine  had  fouled 
the  nets.  She  therefore  sent  up  a  rocket  distress  signal 
to  that  effect.  Immediately  before  this  incident  occurred, 
the  Comrades  had  felt  a  shock  underneath  her  hull,  accom- 
panied   by   a    bumping   on  the   ship's    bottom.     It   was 


evident  that  a  submarine  was  in  trouble,  for  the  next 
incident  was  the  periscope  of  a  submarine  striking  the 
rudder  of  the  Endurance,  so  heavily  as  to  put  the  rudder 
out  of  action.  Still  bungling  on  her  way,  the  submarine 
ran  foul  of  so  much  of  the  Endurance's  net  as  had  been 
shot.  Like  a  skilful  angler  playing  a  fish  at  the  end  of 
his  line,  the  skipper  of  the  Endurance  now  paid  out  the 
rest  of  his  nets  as  rapidly  as  the  submarine  was  taking  them. 
The  result  was  that  the  German  craft  became  completely 
enveloped  in  the  nets,  heading  off  in  a  north-easterly  direc- 
tion. The  Endurance  was  compelled  to  let  go  the  last  of  her 
nets,  as,  owing  to  her  damaged  rudder,  she  was  unable  to 

On  hearing  the  rocket  distress  signal  fired,  the  rest 
of  the  drifters  had  closed  on  the  Endurance  so  as  to 
encircle  the  submarine.  The  enemy  was  now  caught  in  a 
trap  and  the  prisoner  of  these  fishermen.  Not  all  his  wiles 
could  avail  him,  for  he  had  been  definitely  outmanoeuvred. 
All  that  remained  was  to  give  the  death-blow.  The  French 
torpedo-boat  Le  Trombe  was  soon  on  the  scene  and  quickly 
got  into  position  close  to  the  Endurance.  Having  sighted 
the  indicator  buoy  of  the  net  marking  the  submarine's 
apparent  position,  the  Le  Trombe  dropped  three  bombs, 
which  had  the  desired  effect.  The  enemy  decided  to  come 
to  the  surface  and  surrender.  Some  of  the  German  crew 
jumped  overboard,  but  they  were  picked  up  by  the  Welcome 
Star  and  the  Le  Trombe.  The  former  saved  five  Germans 
by  means  of  a  fine  and  buoy,  and  then,  launching  her  boat, 
took  three  German  officers  from  the  submarine  and  put 
them  on  board  the  torpedo-boat.  Seven  more  Germans 
were  saved  by  the  drifter  Stately.  This  saving  of  life  of  a 
defeated  enemy  was,  of  course,  only  in  accordance  with 
the  humane  traditions  of  the  brotherhood  of  the  sea,  and 
the  action  of  the  Allies  in  this  respect  contrasted  with  the 
callousness  of  certain  commanders  of  German  submarines 
in  allowing  non-combatant  passengers  as  well  as  crews  of 
merchant  ships  to  perish. 

But,  to  conclude  this  inspiriting  story,  after  the 
German  prisoners  had  been  accounted  for,  the  Stately  and 
Welcome  Star  remained  with  the  submarine  until  French 
trawlers  arrived  to  take  the  German  prize  in  tow,  assisted 
by  the  Comrades.  The  Endurance,  owing  to  her  damaged 
rudder,  had  to  be  towed  in  by  the  Pleasance.  On  the  way 

272  FISHING-CRAFT   ON   WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

the  submarine  sank,  but  in  shoal  water,  so  that  that  mis- 
fortune was  of  httle  account.  It  had  been  a  great  day  for 
the  drifters,  and  both  the  British  and  the  French  naval 
authorities  took  favourable  notice  of  the  exploit.  The 
former  highly  commended  "the  excellent  work  done  by  the 
drifters  "  on  this  occasion,  and  referred  to  the  destruction 
of  the  submarine  as  having  been  due  entirely  to  the  promp- 
titude of  Lieutenant  M'Loughlin  and  the  skill  of  Skipper 
T.  C.  Wylie,  who  had  so  handled  the  Endurance's  nets 
that  the  submarine  could  not  tear  her  way  through.  The 
Admiralty  decorated  both  these  officers  with  the  D.S.C., 
whilst  two  ratings  received  the  D.S.M.  In  addition,  the 
Admiralty  awarded  the  sum  of  £1,000  to  be  divided  between 
the  six  drifters,  to  which  the  French  Government  con- 
tributed a  further  sum  of  8,000  francs.  These  drifters 
had  arrived  on  the  station  but  a  day  or  two  previously, 
and  were  a  distinct  asset  at  a  most  important  point  along  the 
lines  of  communications.  The  submarine  sunk  was  UB26. 
She  had  left  the  Ems  in  the  afternoon  of  March  19th,  kept 
two  or  three  miles  off  the  Dutch  coast,  and  reached  Zee- 
brugge  on  the  morning  of  March  21st.  At  the  end  of  the 
month,  being  based  on  Flanders,  she  had  set  out  from 
Zeebrugge  and  begun  operating  in  the  English  Channel. 
In  her  were  found  German  charts  which  showed  among 
other  things  that  the  enemy  knew  the  position  of  the  net 
barrage  across  Dover  Straits — from  the  South  Goodwins 
to  the  Snow.  The  submarine  had  crossed  this  barrage 
about  midway  between  the  South  Goodwins  and  the 
Outer  Ruytingen. 

It  must  not,  however,  be  assumed  that  the  vessels  of 
the  Auxiliary  Patrol  were  active  or  efficient  only  in  those 
areas  where  they  succeeded  in  fighting  and  sinking  the 
enemy.  "  Happy,"  it  might  have  been  declared,  "  was 
the  patrol  area  that  had  no  history."  For,  if  the  patrols 
were  absolutely  and  entirely  efficient,  they  should  at  all 
times  have  succeeded  in  keeping  the  submarine  under 
water  ;  no  ships  would  have  been  sunk  and  none  attacked. 
There  were,  however,  for  certain  geographical  or  strategical 
reasons,  certain  areas  which  were  bound  to  come  into 
prominence.  The  Dover  Straits  have  been  specially 
mentioned,  because  that  was  the  eastern  entrance  to  the 
highway  leading  from  Germany  to  the  Atlantic.  Another 
way  was  across  the  North  Sea  and  round  the  north  of 










Scotland,  and  for  that  reason  the  north-east  coast  was  also 
a  busy  sphere.  In  trying  to  forestall  an  enemy's  move- 
ments and  intentions,  it  has  been  regarded  as  a  good  rule 
"  to  put  yourself  in  his  place."  There  was  reason,  for 
example,  on  examining  the  north-east  coast  situation,  to 
expect  that  submarines  would  operate  on  or  near  the 
Tyne-to-Bergen  trade  route.  That  was  a  reasonable 
supposition,  because  the  enemy  knew  well  how  important 
in  the  prosecution  of  the  war  this  particular  trade  route 
was.  In  the  month  of  May  1916  Rear- Admiral  Simpson, 
the  Senior  Naval  Officer  at  Peterhead,  was  directing  his 
trawlers  on  patrol  to  pay  especial  attention  to  that  area. 
Thus  it  occurred  that  on  May  27th,  when  in  lat.  57°  10'  N., 
long.  1°  20'  E.,  half  an  hour  after  noon,  the  trawler 
Searanger  (Lieutenant  H.  J.  Bray,  R.N.R.)  was  patrolling 
when  the  commanding  officer  sighted  a  sail  and  smoke  to 
the  northward,  proceeding  eastward.  Lieutenant  Bray 
ordered  full  speed  ahead  and,  on  proceeding  to  investigate, 
found  that  the  sail  and  smoke  had  revealed  the  presence 
of  a  submarine.  This  stratagem  had  been  tried  before, 
and  under  certain  atmospheric  conditions  it  was  successful 
if  the  patrols  were  not  particularly  watchful  and  inquisitive. 
By  12.45  p.m.  events  had  happened  so  quickly  that  the 
Searanger  and  two  accompanying  trawlers,  the  Oku  and 
Rodino,  had  opened  fire  on  the  submarine  at  a  range 
of  4,000  yards.  The  sea  being  smooth,  it  was  not  long 
before  the  exact  distance  was  found  and  one  shot  was 
seen  to  strike  the  submarine  aft.  She  was  a  big  craft, 
with  a  large  conning-tower  and  wireless  installation. 

The  submarine  presumed  that  these  trawlers  belonged 
to  the  group  of  Hull  fishing-fleet  which  had  scattered  earlier 
in  the  day  on  her  approach.  In  accordance  with  Admiral 
Simpson's  orders,  the  patrol  unit  was  cruising  in  no 
formation,  but  was  dispersed  as  if  fishing.  The  enemy, 
taken  by  surprise  by  the  gunfire,  at  once  lowered  sail 
and,  having  one  gun  forward  and  one  aft,  returned  the 
trawlers'  fire.  The  submarine  began  by  concentrating  the 
shells  from  both  guns  alternately  on  a  trawler,  but  all  the 
time  the  trawlers  were  closing  in  upon  their  prey.  In 
a  little  while  the  enemy's  after  gun  had  apparently  become 
damaged,  for  fire  ceased  and  reopened  only  with  the  for- 
ward gun,  the  shots  falling  short.  It  was  observed  on 
board  both  the  Searanger  and  Rodino  that  the  periscope 

274  FISHING-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

had  been  partially  shot  away.  It  was  soon  evident  that 
the  enemy  was  already  tired  of  the  engagement,  for  he 
ceased  fire  altogether,  and  made  an  effort  to  escape  by 

By  this  time  the  unit  of  trawlers  had  more  than  half 
encircled  the  submarine  and  shell  after  shell  was  being 
placed  with  admirable  accuracy.  The  submarine  at  length 
rose  well  out  of  the  water  with  a  heavy  list  to  port,  like 
a  wounded  thing,  and  an  endeavour  was  made  to  finish 
her  off.  Both  the  Oku  and  Searanger  did  their  best  to 
ram  her,  but  she  was  making  an  erratic  course  towards 
the  centre  of  the  unit,  apparently  trying  to  get  alongside 
the  trawler  Kimberley,  the  fourth  vessel  of  the  group. 
As  the  submarine  came  within  eight  feet  of  the  latter,  it 
was  impossible  to  ram,  but  as  she  passed  the  Kimberley 
fired  three  shots  into  her.  By  this  time  the  submarine 
was  heeling  over  to  port  and  sinking  stern  first.  Finally, 
after  a  shot  from  the  Kimberley,  she  sank  out  of  sight, 
leaving  a  large  quantity  of  oil  on  the  surface. 

It  was  now  1.30  p.m.,  and  the  unit  continued  to  cruise 
about  in  the  vicinity  until  3  p.m.,  when  the  quantity  of 
oil  on  the  surface  had  considerably  increased.  In  this 
way  the  career  was  ended  of  U74  ;  having  been  seriously 
damaged  by  the  first  three  trawlers,  she  was  given  the 
coup  de  grace  by  the  Kimberley.  It  was  an  almost  ideal 
engagement,  the  fighting  trawlers  utilising  their  guns  in 
association  with  the  courage  and  plain  common-sense 
tactics  of  the  crews  against  the  German  U-boat,  with  her 
superior  gun-power  and  her  torpedoes.  It  was  well, 
indeed,  that  U74  had  been  destroyed,  for  this  was  the  craft 
which  had  but  a  few  weeks  before  laid  a  dangerous  mine- 
field in  the  Firth  of  Forth,  and  would  doubtless  have  con- 
tinued her  mining  warfare  at  a  later  date. 

This  engagement  occurred  four  days  before  the  Battle 
of  Jutland,  and  it  may  be  asked  :  Were  the  vessels  of  the 
Auxiliary  Patrol  able,  on  that  historic  day,  to  render  any 
service  ?  Obviously  such  craft  could  have  no  part  in  a 
fleet  action,  nor  could  they  operate  so  far  from  their  base 
as  the  coast  of  Jutland.  The  duty  of  the  vessels  of  the 
Auxiliary  Patrol  were  carried  out  within  easy  distance 
of  the  British  coast,  and  it  was  just  when  the  Grand  Fleet 
would  be  making  the  land  on  its  return  from  battle, 
probably  with  some  ships  badly  wounded,  that  the  smaller 


craft  might  be  useful  in  repelling  the  attacks  of  submarines 
lying  in  wait.  Thus,  on  June  1st,  three  armed  trawlers 
from  Granton  were  dispatched  on  the  information  that 
three  torpedoes  had  been  fired  at  an  incoming  ship.  Later 
in  the  same  day  submarines  were  reported  off  May  Island, 
and  the  yacht  Mingary  sighted  a  submarine  that  was  trying 
to  intercept  H.M.S.  Warspite  returning  with  her  scars 
received  in  the  Jutland  battle.  The  Mingary  and  her 
unit  at  once  gave  chase  to  the  submarine,  but  it  submerged 
and  escaped.  On  the  night  of  May  31st,  in  consequence 
of  the  news  which  he  had  received.  Admiral  Startin 
dispatched  from  Granton  every  available  armed  yacht, 
armed  trawler,  and  mine-sweeping  trawler  to  positions 
which  these  craft  were  ordered  to  occupy  in  the  event  of  a 
fleet  action.  He  sent  also  fourteen  of  his  drifters  up  the 
Forth  to  Rosyth  with  cots  ready  to  land  the  wounded  from 
the  men-of-war  as  soon  as  they  should  arrive.  So  carefully, 
indeed,  had  everything  been  foreseen  that  during  the 
previous  weeks  Admiral  Startin  had  instituted  special 
classes  at  Granton  for  the  instruction  of  the  drifter  men  in 
the  transport  of  wounded  and  in  general  first  aid.  Thus 
a  fortnight  before  the  Battle  of  Jutland  forty-four  skippers 
and  second  hands  had  qualified  for  certificates. 

The  loss  of  U74  mentioned  on  the  opposite  page  was 
important  not  merely  because  she  was  a  submarine,  but 
because  she  was  probably  the  first  to  operate  according  to  a 
new  plan.  At  the  beginning  of  the  war,  as  has  been  stated, 
enemy  mine-laying  was  done  by  surface  ships.  Then  came 
the  UC-boats  which,  based  on  Flanders,  laid  their  mines 
off  the  south-east  coast  of  England.  As  the  commanders 
of  these  craft  became  more  daring  and  efficient,  they  laid 
the  mines  as  far  north  as  Flamborough  and  as  far  west  as 
Land's  End.  Such  was  their  success  that  a  bigger  type  of 
mine-layer  was  evolved,  which  could  go  farther  distances. 
These  were  the  U- mine -layers  and  belonged,  not  to  the 
Flanders  Flotilla,  but  to  the  High  Sea  Fleet.  From  about 
April  1916  until  the  end  of  the  war,  these  U-mine-layers, 
based  on  the  Elbe,  laid  their  mines  off  various  parts  of  the 
British  Isles,  including  even  the  west  of  Ireland,  but  not 
in  the  Flamborough-south-east  coast-Land's  End  area, 
which  was  reserved  for  the  UC-boats  from  Flanders. 
It  is  not  possible  to  state  which  was  the  first  mine-field 
that  can  be  attributed  to  these  U-boats,  nor  on  what  date 

276  FISHING-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

it  M^as  laid.  But  it  is  certain,  however,  that  the  Firth  of 
Forth  mine-field  was  the  first  and  that  it  was  laid  on  or 
about  April  18th,  1916,  by  U74.  Other  U-boat  mine- 
fields were  laid  soon  afterwards,  as  for  example  that  of 
the  Brough  of  Birsay  causing  the  loss  of  H.M.S.  Hampshire 
and  the  death  of  Lord  Kitchener  ;  the  Moray  Firth, 
Southern  Channel,  Tyne,  Skerryvore,  South  of  Ireland, 
Bristol  Channel,  Clyde  approaches,  Isle  of  Man,  and  off 
the  north-east  English  ports.  The  effect  of  this  increased 
mining  activity  was  to  scatter  the  mine-sweeping  forces 
by  causing  a  unit  of  mine-sweepers  to  be  located  at  every 
port.  Seeing  that  the  number  of  Auxiliary  Patrol  ships 
and  men  was  limited,  and  the  more  of  them  were  em- 
ployed in  mine-sweeping  the  fewer  could  be  employed  in 
the  purely  offensive  duty  of  harrying  submarines,  this  was 
sound  strategy  on  the  part  of  the  enemy.  What  happened 
was  that  a  large  part  of  the  available  force  was  diverted 
to  defensive  duties — into  sweeping  clear  passages  for 
merchant  ships  ;  whereas  the  U-boat,  having  once  de- 
posited her  cargo  of  mines,  could  begin  to  torpedo  shipping 
at  will  and  without  so  much  interference  by  armed  trawlers 
and  M.L.s. 

How  consistently  and  persistently  this  policy  was 
carried  out  in  the  summer  of  1916  is  revealed  by  the  bare 
record  of  the  attacks  on  fishing-trawlers.  During  the 
night  of  July  5th-6th  a  German  submarine  sank  no  fewer 
than  seven  Scotch  drifters  off  the  Tyne.  During  the 
preceding  week  a  large  fleet  of  Scotch  drifters  had  been 
working  off  this  coast,  following  the  herrings.  On  this 
night  the  fleet  was  very  much  spread  when  first  attacked, 
and  the  Senior  Naval  Officer  at  the  Tyne  had  allotted  every 
available  vessel  of  the  newly  armed  drifters  as  well  as 
some  armed  trawlers  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  to  go  to  sea 
with  the  fishermen  and  bring  them  home  in  safety.  These 
methods  appeared  to  be  successful  in  stopping  raids  on 
fishing-fleets,  but  some  trawlers  and  drifters  afterwards 
fell  victims  to  the  enemy.  Two  torpedo-boats  also  operated 
in  the  fishing  area,  and  visited  the  fleets  every  morning 
and  evening.  Another  fishing-vessel  was  sunk  on  July  10th  ; 
three  days  later  four  more  were  sunk  off  Scarborough  and 
Whitby  ;  next  day  five  more  off  the  Tyne  ;  three  more 
on  July  27th  ;  six  on  the  day  following  ;  and  three  more 
on  the  last  day  of  July.     Thus  in  one  month  a  total  of 

CH.  XII]  A  DOUBLE   CHASE  277 

twenty-five  fishing-craft  were  sunk  off  the  Tyne  alone. 
It  was  reported  that  the  submarines  concerned  were  large, 
possessing  a  couple  of  wireless  masts  and  a  gun.  The 
situation  was  so  serious  that  at  the  beginning  of  August 
the  area  had  to  be  patrolled  by  H.M.S.  Active  or  Light- 
foot,  with  six  destroyers  of  the  Fourth  Flotilla.  In  spite 
of  the  Active  and  destroyers,  the  enemy  began  by  setting 
fire  to  a  steamer  off  Coquet  Island.  On  August  6th  twelve 
armed  trawlers  and  twenty-four  drifters  with  mine-nets 
reached  the  Tyne.  Until  their  arrival  the  work  of 
escorting  shipping  had  been  so  heavy  that  practically  no 
patrolling  could  be  done  by  trawlers  ;  whatever  armed 
trawlers  were  available  were  sent  to  protect  the  drifter 
fishing-fleets.  These  newly  arrived  drifters  were  at  once 
employed  as  a  disguised  fishing-fleet  and  sent  to  a  position 
fifteen  miles  east-north-east  of  the  Tyne,  convoyed  by 
armed  trawlers.  This  was  about  the  position  where  the 
fishing-drifters  had  been  sunk  at  the  end  of  July.  The 
attacks  now  ceased,  but  began  again  on  September  23rd. 

A  dead-set  was  clearly  being  made  on  all  trawlers  and 
drifters,  whether  of  the  fishing-fleets  or  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol.  Perhaps  this  development  was  due  to  the  annoy- 
ance of  the  enemy  at  the  splendid  way  in  which  fishermen, 
enrolled  in  His  Majesty's  service,  were  helping  the  Navy 
and  fighting  the  submarine  as  well  as  the  mine  ;  perhaps 
it  was  mere  "  frightfulness,"  fed  by  a  desire  to  intimidate 
men  who  had  been  using  the  sea  all  their  lives,  from  leaving 
port  again.  In  any  case,  it  had  no  permanent  effect. 
On  July  7th,  farther  up  the  North  Sea,  a  unit  of  armed 
trawlers  from  Peterhead,  consisting  of  the  Martin,  Glamis 
Castle,  Ibis,  Editor,  Albatross,  and  Consort,  were  at  7.15  a.m. 
in  lat.  58°  20'  N.,  long.  0°  48'  E.,  when  a  submarine 
was  sighted  to  the  north-west.  Twenty- five  minutes  later 
a  second  submarine  was  sighted  to  the  north-east.  The 
first  was  now  chased  by  the  Consort  and  Glamis  Castle  ; 
whilst  the  Martin,  Albatross,  and  Editor  pursued  the  second, 
opening  fire  on  her  and  causing  her  to  submerge.  At 
11.30  a.m.  the  Consort  and  Glamis  Castle  returned  from  their 
chase,  having  lost  sight  of  their  quarry  after  twenty  miles. 
But  at  7  p.m.  the  unit  again  sighted  a  submarine  about 
six  miles  south  of  the  position  where  the  enemy  had  been 
fired  on  during  the  morning.  At  8  o'clock  the  Albatross, 
which  was  ahead,  opened  fire.     The  submarine  returned 

278  FISHING-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE      [ch.  xii 

the  fire,  closed  the  Albatross,  and  subjected  her  to  a  heavy 
bombardment  until  the  Martin  came  up  and  started  firing. 
This  caused  the  submarine  to  direct  her  fire  on  the  Martin. 
She  used  both  guns,  the  projectiles  falling  close  around 
both  these  trawlers.  The  seventeenth  round  from  the 
Albatross  appeared  to  strike  the  enemy  craft  forward. 
The  submarine  then  made  a  black  smoke-screen,  turned 
end  on,  and  still  firing  from  the  after  gun,  made  off  quickly 
to  the  eastward  and  was  lost  sight  of  about  9.40  p.m. 
Next  day,  not  far  from  that  locality,  a  submarine,  with 
one  gun,  was  sighted  with  her  wireless  masts  up.  This 
was  at  2.30  a.m.,  but  when  the  unit  closed  her  she 
made  off  to  the  eastward  and,  when  shells  from  the 
Martin,  Consort,  and  Editor  began  to  fall  around  her, 
she  submerged. 

Four  days  later  another  Peterhead  unit,  consisting  of 
the  armed  trawlers  Onward,  Nellie  Nutten,  and  Era,  fought 
a  most  gallant  fight,  a  fight  against  overwhelming  strength 
which  ended  disastrously.  It  was,  however,  a  fishermen's 
battle  that  will  certainly  be  long  remembered.  These 
three  trawlers  were  but  poorly  armed  ;  the  Onward  had 
a  12-pounder  gun,  the  other  two  had  one  3-pomider  gun 
apiece.  Events  suggested  that  the  enemy  had  been  mak- 
ing a  concentration  in  order  to  wipe  out  these  Peterhead 
trawlers  which  had  shown  such  complete  disrespect  for  the 
superior  armed  submarines,  causing  them  to  seek  flight 
when  encountered  separately.  For  on  July  11th,  at  a 
quarter-past  five  in  the  afternoon,  when  about  120  miles 
east-south-east  of  Girdleness, the  OnrL'ard( Lieutenant  Claude 
Asquith,  R.N.R.),  leader  of  the  unit,  hoisted  her  signal 
that  a  submarine  was  in  sight.  Thereupon  the  Nellie 
Nutten  (Skipper  C.  Angus)  bore  down  towards  his  leader. 
The  Onward  had  already  opened  fire,  and  now  the  Nellie 
Nutten  began,  but  after  firing  a  considerable  time,  her 
little  3-pounder  being  utterly  outranged  by  the  enemy, 
she  saw  a  second  submarine  approaching  from  the  north- 
east and  a  third  coming  up  from  the  south-east.  The 
Onward  then  altered  course  to  port  and  the  Nellie  Nutten 
to  starboard. 

The  three  submarines,  which  were  now  keeping  to  port 
and  starboard  of  the  unit,  maintained  a  fire  at  long  range. 
After  proceeding  in  a  west -south-westerly  direction  for  an 
hour,  the  Nellie  Nutten  received  a  shot  through  her  stern 


and  the  next  shot  disabled  her  altogether.  In  the  distance 
the  Era  was  seen  to  be  on  fire  with  a  couple  of  submarines 
alongside  her.  Owing  to  the  long  range,  all  three  trawlers 
had  been  firing  at  the  enemy  without  effect,  and  the 
action  was  rapidly  coming  to  its  inevitable  conclusion. 
Finding  herself  in  a  helpless  condition,  the  Xellie  Nutten 
steered  towards  a  Dutch  lugger,  and  just  as  the  maimed 
trawler  sank,  all  the  crew  jumped  overboard  and  were 
picked  up  by  the  Dutchman.  When  last  seen  the  Onward 
was  obviously  out  of  control  and  in  flames.  The  Era,  too, 
had  been  sunk,  but  all  three  had  made  an  heroic  fight. 
The  Dutch  lugger  (the  Doggerbank  of  Scheveningen) 
brought  the  Nellie  Nutten  into  Aberdeen.  The  Dutch 
skipper  stated  that  four  German  submarines,  painted  grey, 
and  each  armed  with  two  guns,  had  been  engaged  ;  and 
that  they  opened  fire  on  the  trawlers  at  a  distance  of  three 
miles.  Not  even  this  exhibition  on  the  part  of  the  enemy 
kept  the  Peterhead  patrols  from  performing  their  duty, 
though  they  thought  that  their  craft  should  have  been 
better  armed.  Admiral  Jellicoe  suggested  that  this  should 
be  remedied  and,  as  a  result,  fifty-seven  12-pounder  guns 
were  forthwith  supplied  to  East  Coast  trawlers. 

Of  the  Nellie  Nutten' s  crew  eleven  were  saved  ;  the  chief 
engineer  was  killed,  and  one  trimmer  seriously  wounded. 
One  of  the  "  hands  "  was  also  wounded.  The  whole  of  the 
Onward's  crew,  numbering  sixteen,  were  taken  prisoners, 
including  Lieutenant  Asquith,  who  was  awarded  the  D.S.C. 
for  his  gallantry  during  the  action.  It  was  evident  that 
in  chasing  the  first  submarine  he  was  led  into  the  vicinity 
of  the  other  three  and  completely  outmatched.  Skipper 
Angus  was  commended  for  the  skilful  and  seamanlike 
manner  in  which  he  had  manoeuvred  his  ship  when  dis- 
abled, thus  saving  practically  all  his  ship's  company. 
The  whole  of  the  Era's  crew  were  taken  prisoners.  In 
peace-time,  both  she  and  the  Onward  belonged  to  Hull  ; 
the  Nellie  Nutten  was  a  Grimsby  trawler  before  the  war. 
It  is  now  possible  to  state  that  the  four  submarines  were 
U46,  U49,  U52,  and  U69.  Of  these  four  U69  was  sunk 
just  a  year  later — on  July  12th,  1917 — by  H.M.S.  Patriot  ; 
U49  was  sunk  by  the  steamship  British  Transport  on 
September  11th,  1917 ;  and  the  other  two  surrendered 
at  Harwich  in  November  1918. 

At  the  time  when  the  enemy  was  sinking  the  Scotch 

280  FISHING-CRAFT  ON  WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

drifters  off  the  Tyne,  another  submarine — from  Flanders — 
was  operating  off  Lowestoft.  This  was  UClO.  A  little 
before  midnight  on  July  6th  a  small  motor-boat  named 
the  Salmon,  under  the  command  of  Sub-Lieutenant  E.  T. 
West,  R.N.V.R.,  was  on  patrol  off  Lowestoft.  The 
Salmon  was  not  a  M.L.,  but  a  day-boat  without  a  cabin. 
She  was  40  feet  long  with  8-foot  beam,  with  a  cockpit  aft 
and  a  certain  amount  of  space  forward  of  the  engine-room 
where  a  couple  of  men  could  turn  in.  She  had,  however, 
a  very  powerful  Stirling  motor,  developing  135  h.p.,  which 
gave  her  a  speed  of  20  knots.  The  Salmon  was  one  of 
six  boats  which  had  been  presented  to  the  Admiralty  by 
Mr.  Cochrane,  an  American  yachtsman,  who  had  formerly 
owned  the  celebrated  schooner  Westward.  The  Salmon 
was  a  comparatively  new  boat,  having  been  built  in  1915. 
To  many  it  might  have  seemed  that  such  a  frail  boat  could 
scarcely  expect  to  be  of  much  use  in  a  naval  war.  How- 
ever, there  were  many  things  which  had  to  be  unlearned 
during  those  fateful  years,  and  this  was  another  instance. 
At  this  period  the  Salmon  was  on  the  lookout  for  a 
submarine,  which  was  suspected  of  being  near  the  "  War 
Channel."  For  about  an  hour  she  kept  hearing  buzzing 
sounds  at  intervals  on  her  hydrophones.  At  1.30  a.m. 
(July  7th)  the  buzzing  recommenced.  It  was  apparently 
much  nearer  and  was  rapidly  approaching,  the  sound 
resembling  that  of  a  dynamo  running.  Within  a  few 
minutes  it  seemed  to  be  right  under  the  boat,  so  the  Salmon 
put  her  engines  full  speed  ahead  and  dropped  a  depth 
charge,  which  exploded.  Almost  immediately  a  much 
more  violent  explosion  followed,  throwing  up  a  column 
of  water  50  feet  high.  A  large  number  of  bubbles  came 
to  the  surface  together  with  wreckage,  consisting  of  pieces 
of  wood  painted  white  and  a  grating.  A  strong  smell  of 
gas  was  also  noticed.  What  had  happened  was  that  the 
mine-laying  UClO  had  been  bombed  and  her  own  mines 
had  then  exploded.  She  and  her  crew  were  thus  prevented 
from  doing  further  damage  to  merchant  shipping. 

Determined  to  deal  British  fishing-craft  a  heavy  blow 
before  the  autumn,  Germany  made  a  heavy  submarine 
raid  on  the  fleets  on  September  23rd,  24th,  and  25th,  1916. 
On  September  23rd  there  was  an  airship  raid  on  the  East 
Coast  and  London  involving  serious  casualties,  and  on  the 
morning  of  that  day,  about  10.30,  began  the  East  Coast 


fishing-raid  which  resulted  in  the  destruction  of  thirty- 
craft,  a  disaster  involving  a  financial  loss,  to  speak  of  no 
other,  of  £100,000.  This  raid  resolved  itself  into  two 
periods.  The  first  was  from  10.30  a.m.  to  7.30  p.m.  of 
September  23rd,  during  which  fishing-vessels  were  sunk 
in  an  area  from  thirty  to  sixty-five  miles  south-east  of  the 
Humber.  There  followed  an  interval  during  the  night, 
which  was  apparently  occupied  by  the  submarine  steering 
northwards  up  the  Yorkshire  coast,  but  a  good  way  oft 
the  land.  The  second  period  began  on  September  24th 
at  8  a.m.  and  closed  at  11  a.m.  on  the  following  day.  At 
8.30  p.m.  on  the  former  day  the  enemy  craft  captured 
the  steam  fishing-trawler  Fisher  Prince,  belonging  to 
Scarborough,  the  capture  taking  place  about  twenty  miles 
to  the  north-east  of  that  port.  A  German  lieutenant  and 
a  prize  crew  of  eight  men  then  boarded  her,  and  the  two 
cruised  in  company.  A  number  of  other  fishing-craft 
were  captured,  including  the  Scarborough  steam  fishing- 
trawler  Otter,  the  crew  being  put  aboard  the  Fisher  Prince. 
The  submarine  continued  to  sink  other  craft  until  9.50  a.m., 
when  the  Norwegian  s.s.  Tromp  came  in  sight  and  was 
stopped.  All  the  fishing  crews  were  put  aboard  the  Nor- 
wegian vessel,  and  the  Fisher  Prince  was  sunk,  together 
with  the  trawler  Seal. 

In  a  period  of  forty-eight  hours  the  raid  had  taken 
place  over  an  area  between  sixty-five  miles  S.E.  by  E. 
of  the  Humber  and  thirty-three  miles  E.  by  S.  of  Hartle- 
pool. It  is  true  that  on  the  night  of  September  24th, 
whilst  escorting  a  drifter  fleet,  the  trawler  Rigoletto 
heard  heavy  firing  to  the  eastward,  but  she  rightly  decided 
that  her  first  duty  was  to  stand  by  her  own  craft  and  she 
refused  to  be  enticed  away.  It  was,  indeed,  fortunate 
for  the  enemy  that  no  destroyers  or  patrol-craft  had  been 
met  with,  but  the  misty  weather,  so  typical  of  the  month 
of  September,  had  assisted  him  greatly.  The  whole  situa- 
tion from  the  British  point  of  view  was  most  difficult. 
So  many  patrol-vessels  were  required  now  for  protecting 
fishing- fleets,  for  patrolling  on  the  lookout  for  lurking  sub- 
marines, for  convoying  merchant  ships,  for  sweeping  up 
mines,  and  for  various  special  services,  that  it  was  quite 
impossible  to  prevent  these  raids  occurring  now  and  again. 
To  be  strong  at  every  point  was  not  practicable,  any  more 
than  the  Grand  Fleet  could  prevent  the  coast  from  being 

282  FISHING-CRAFT   ON   WAR   SERVICE     [ch.  xii 

bombarded  by  German  battle-cruisers  occasionally.     The 

most  that  could  be  done  was  not  to  allow  the  enemy,  by 

his  exasperating  pin-pricks,  to  upset  the  general  strategic 

scheme.     Men  and  ships  were   being  overworked,  there 

was     another    long,    trying   winter   just    beginning,   the 

conditions  on  the  various  fronts  were  not  too  favourable, 

but  satisfaction  was  to  be  extracted  from  the  knowledge 

that    we    were    grappling    with   the    submarine    menace. 

Enemy  craft  were  being  sunk  now  by  all  sorts  of  Auxiliary 

Patrol  vessels,  and  the  depth  charges  and  hydrophones 

were  revealing  their  usefulness.     At  the  Admiralty  fresh 

schemes    were    being   adopted    for   intensifying  the    war 

against  submarines.     Fishermen  and  yachtsmen  and  men 

of  the  Mercantile  Marine  were  showing  that  they  could  be 

depended  upon  in  all  emergencies  to  exhibit  undaunted 

spirit.     Fishermen,  too  old  to  fight,  whose  sons  and  brothers 

and  sons-in-law  were  either  serving  afloat  or  in  the  trenches, 

refused  to  be  frightened  off  the  sea  even  when  their  ships 

were  taken  from  them.     With  this  fine  British  courage 

animating  all  ranks   and  ratings  there   was  ground  for 




Some  details  have  been  given  of  the  evolution  of  the 
Dover  barrage,  with  its  mines,  its  mine-nets,  and  its 
system  of  buoys.  It  was  patrolled  by  drifters,  and  each 
Drifter  Division  was  commanded  by  a  Lieutenant  R.N.R. 
Owing  to  the  shortage  of  guns  at  the  period,  most  of  these 
drifters  were  unarmed,  and  none  had  wireless  telegraphy, 
but  they  were  supported  by  armed  yachts  and  trawlers. 
Towards  the  end  of  October  1916  a  German  flotilla  of 
destroyers  reached  Zeebrugge  to  reinforce  the  Flanders 
flotillas.  On  the  night  of  the  26th-27th  these  destroyers 
made  a  raid  on  the  Dover  Straits,  which  had  a  serious 
effect  on  the  drifters.  Between  Buoys  OA  and  20A  were 
disposed  the  eight,  tenth,  sixteenth,  and  twelfth  divisions 
of  Dover  drifters,  a  total  of  twenty-three  craft.  They 
were  supported  by  the  trawler  H.  E.  Stroud,  armed  with  a 
3-pounder  and  fitted  with  wireless  ;  by  the  armed  yacht 
Ombra,  armed  with  a  couple  of  3-pounders ;  and  by  the 
M.L.  103  and  M.L.  252,  each  of  wliich  had  a  13-pounder 
Of  the  twenty-three  drifters  five  alone  were  armed,  each 
with  a  3-pounder.  The  barrage  was,  therefore,  held  en- 
tirely by  Auxiliary  Patrol  vessels,  the  destroyer  forces 
being  required  to  defend  the  Downs  and  to  protect  Dunkirk, 
an  essential  reserve  force  remaining  in  Dover  Harbour  for 

The  night  of  October  26th-27th  was  very  dark,  and  it 
was  just  half  an  hour  before  high  water  in  Dover  Straits 
when  suddenly  the  Tenth  Drifter  Division,  at  ten  minutes 
past  ten,  sighted  destroyers  coming  up  astern,  steering 
about  west-north-west  and  parallel  with  the  barrage.  The 
first  four  destroyers  passed  close  to  the  leader  of  the  Drifter 
Division.  The  drifters  made  the  challenge  and  fired  a 
couple  of  rifle  shots  at  them,  but  the  four  destroyers  passed 
on  without  reply.     But  immediately  astern  came  more 


284  RAIDS   ON  DOVER   STRAITS  [ch.  xiii 

German  destroyers,  which  opened  fire  on  the  Tenth  Drifter 
Division,  hitting  all  the  drifters  except  one,  which  made  off 
to  the  north-west.  The  drifters  Spotless  Prince,  Datum, 
and  Gleaner  of  the  Sea  were  sunk,  and  the  Waveney  set  on 
fire.  Later  on  the  Waveney,  shattered  by  shell-fire  and  a 
mere  derelict,  was  towed  into  the  Downs,  but  owing  to 
bad  weather  coming  on  could  not  be  salved. 

At  about  11.10  p.m.  the  next  attack  occurred.  This 
was  directed  against  the  Eighth  Drifter  Division,  which 
was  off  the  west  end  of  the  barrage.  Of  these  six,  the 
Rohiirn  was  sunk  and  the  Pleasants  damaged  ;  the  rest 
escaped  towards  the  Goodwins,  their  leader  firing  several 
rockets  to  give  the  alarm.  Meanwhile  the  armed  yacht 
Ombra  sent  wireless  signals  into  Dover  and  proceeded 
to  get  into  touch  with  the  Sixteenth  Drifter  Division, 
which  she  ordered  into  Dover.  But  shortly  afterwards — 
about  11.15  p.m. — this  division  ran  into  the  enemy,  with 
the  result  that  the  two  drifters  Ajax  and  Launch  Out 
were  sunk,  and  the  E.B.C.  damaged.  The  Fifteenth 
Division  was  not  attacked.  The  transport  Queen  hap- 
pened to  be  on  her  way  at  this  time  from  Boulogne,  and 
three  of  the  German  destroyers  came  up  on  her  starboard 
and  another  three  on  her  port  side,  made  her  stop,  boarded 
her,  destroyed  herwireless,  and  caused  herto  be  abandoned, 
eventually  shelling  her  so  that  she  sank. 

The  entire  German  force  had  consisted  probably  of 
eleven  destroyers,  which  when  near  the  north-east  end 
of  the  barrage  had  separated  into  two  divisions.  Both 
divisions  appear  to  have  found  the  east  end  of  the  net 
barrage,  which  at  this  date  extended  no  farther  east  than 
the  Ruytingen  Shoal.  One  division  of  five  destroyers 
then  proceeded  south-west  towards  Grisnez,  the  other 
going  towards  Dover.  The  first  division  boarded  the 
Queen,  and  the  second  attacked  the  Tenth  and  Eighth 
Drifter  Divisions,  then  turned  east  and  met  the  Sixteenth 
Division  and  went  off  to  the  north-east.  The  Ombra' s 
signal  at  10.30  p.m.  caused  Admiral  Bacon  to  send  out  six 
of  the  Tribal  class  of  destroyers  from  Dover.  Of  these 
six,  the  Nubian  fell  in  with  five  German  destroyers  who 
at  short  range  shelled  the  Nubian's  port  side.  In  vain 
the  Nubian  attempted  to  ram  the  last  ship  of  the  enemy's 
line,  but  was  torpedoed  and  caught  on  fire.  Another  of 
the   Dover  destroyers,  the   Amazon,  was   struck  in  the 




boiler-room  by  a  shell,  and  a  third,  the  Mohawk,  was  hit 
so  that  her  helm  jambed. 

As  for  the  trawler  H.  E.  Stroud,  she  had  been  ordered 
by  wireless  to  send  into  Dover  all  drifters  and  M.L.s,  and 
was  proceeding  at  full  speed  to  carry  out  these  orders  when 
she  met  four  German  destroyers,  each  enemy  craft  giving 
the  trawler  one  round  in  passing.      The  H.  E.  Stroud's 
commanding  officer.  Lieutenant  J.  R.  McClory,  R.N.R., 
was  killed,  as  well  as  the  helmsman,  two  of  the  crew  were 
wounded  and  the  bridge  wrecked.     Six  drifters  had  been 
sunk,  three  severely  damaged,  fifty-five  officers  and  men 
killed  or  missing,  and  five  wounded.     Such  was  the  toll 
of  the  enemy's  night  raid  !     Of  these  fifty-five  seamen,  ten 
were  subsequently  found  to  have  been  taken  prisoners. 
It    was    a    heavy   blow ;     nevertheless  the  sudden    fierce 
onslaught,  devastating  as   it   had   been,  in  no  way  dis- 
heartened the  fishermen  crews  of  the  Dover  drifters.     The 
most  formidable  weapon  which  most  of  these  ships  pos- 
sessed was  a  rifle  with  a  few  rounds  of  ammunition,  but  in 
spite  of  this   disability  for  a  contest  against  modern  de- 
stroyers the  men  were  undaunted.     A  report  got  about  in 
Dover  that  in  future  the  drifters  would  not  care  about 
watching    their    nets    at    night.     Thereupon    the    drifter 
skippers.  Admiral  Bacon  has  recorded,  went  in  a  body  to 
the  Captain  of  the  Dover  Patrol  and  stated  that,  so  far 
from  not  liking  to  do  night  patrolling,  they  were  ready, 
should  the  Admiral  wish  it,  to  lay  their  nets  and  watch 
them  off  Zeebrugge. 

"  I  have  already  had  occasion,"  wrote  the  Admiral  to 
the  Admiralty  a  few  days  after  this  raid,  "  to  call  Their 
Lordships'  attention  to  the  steady  courage  and  gallantry 
with  which  the  men  of  our  little  auxiliaries  constantly 
face  dangerous  positions  and  difficult  situations.  The 
conduct  on  Thursday  night  was  again  a  brilliant  example." 

About  a  month  later,  on  the  night  of  November  23rd, 
the  enemy,  doubtless  pleased  by  his  success  against  the 
drifters,  essayed  another  raid  on  the  Straits.  It  was 
about  an  hour  after  high  water,  there  was  a  south-westerly 
breeze  with  mist  and  slight  rain  when,  at  10.40  p.m.,  six 
German  destroyers  appeared  at  the  northern  approach 
to  the  Downs,  where  they  were  sighted  by  the  armed 

286  RAIDS   ON  DOVER   STRAITS  [ch.  xiii 

drifters,  who  were  based  on  Ramsgate.  These  craft,  with 
a  6-pounder  each,  performed  the  duty  of  guarding  the 
area  from  the  North  Foreland  to  the  North  Goodwin 
Lightship.  A  division  of  Dover  destroyers  was  also 
anchored  in  the  Downs  ready  for  an  emergency.  The 
enemy  appear  to  have  come  on  a  south-easterly  course 
from  a  little  distance  off  Broadstairs  to  between  the 
north-eastern  edge  of  the  Downs  and  North  Goodwin 
Lightship.  They  were  sighted  at  10.50  p.m.,  when  a  mile 
north-east  of  the  Broadstairs  Knoll  buoy,  by  the  drifter 
Acceptable  (Sub-Lieutenant  W.  F.  Fitzgerald,  R.N.R.). 
The  enemy  passed  under  the  AcceytabW s  stern  only  a 
hundred  and  fifty  yards  away,  and  the  last  destroyer  fired. 
So  the  Acceptable  went  full  speed  ahead  to  the  north-west 
to  get  clear,  but  her  starboard  sidelight  and  stern  light 
were  blown  away  by  the  enemy's  ten  rounds,  which 
smashed  the  dinghy,  damaged  the  mast,  the  gallery  and 
engine-room  casing,  though  fortunately  there  were  no 
casualties.  The  drifter  Buckler  was  also  fired  on.  The 
Acceptable  sent  in  a  message  by  her  wireless,  but,  the 
alarm  having  been  raised  by  the  drifters  and  a  warning 
rocket  fired,  the  Germans  realised  that  their  plan  had 
miscarried  and  that  it  would  be  useless  for  them  to  try 
and  break  through  the  Straits  that  night.  They  therefore 
decided  to  retire  before  the  Downs  destroyers  could  arrive 
on  the  spot.  Thus  the  raid  was  futile,  though  the  enemy 
claimed  to  have  bombarded  Ramsgate.  It  may  be  added 
that  no  shots  fell  on  shore. 

Thus  the  work  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  went  on  through 
another  winter.  More  and  still  more  trawlers  were 
required,  and  the  demand  was  never  completely  met. 
New  trawlers  were  being  requisitioned  as  quickly  as  they 
were  built,  but  what  with  the  sinking  from  mines,  sub- 
marines, and  the  ordinary  perils  of  the  sea,  there  was  little 
or  no  surplus  after  losses  had  been  made  good.  In  Decem- 
ber 1916  began  the  system  of  protected  sailings  for  the 
Scandinavian  ships,  whose  cargoes  were  so  essential  at 
this  critical  period.  These  vessels  would  have  refused  to 
cross  the  North  Sea  but  for  protection,  and  this  had  to  be 
afforded  by  vessels  of  the  Shetlands  Auxiliary  Patrol  Area. 
Owing  to  the  demands  on  trawlers  for  mine -sweeping  and 
for  patrolling  the  Fair  Island  passage  (a  regular  highway 
for  U-boats)  and  for  various  other  reasons,  there  remained 


few  trawlers  available  for  a  regular  escorting  system. 
The  result  was  that  the  dispositions  of  the  vessels  of  the 
Auxiliary  Patrol  in  both  the  Shetlands  and  Orkneys  areas 
had  to  be  reorganised  in  February  1917  so  that  trawlers 
and  whalers  might  be  available  to  escort  neutral  traffic  for 
Scandinavia  to  three  selected  rendezvous  midway  between 
the  Shetlands  and  Norway.  The  German  response  to  this 
arrangement  was  to  concentrate  their  submarines  off  the 
entrances  to  Norwegian  ports.  Finally,  in  April  1917,  an 
escort  of  destroyers  had  to  be  provided  right  up  to  Nor- 
wegian territorial  waters  so  as  further  to  ensure  the  safety 
of  merchant  shipping. 

By  December  1916  the  peril  arising  from  the  destruction 
brought  about  by  the  U-boats  had  attained  such  magnitude 
that  the  Admiralty  were  driven  to  creating  a  special  depart- 
ment called  the  Anti-submarine  Division  to  co-ordinate 
existing  measures  and  devise  new  ones  for  combating 
the  enemy's  campaign.  At  the  head  of  this  section  of  the 
naval  staff  was  placed  Admiral  A.  L,  Duff.  Among  other 
things  this  organisation  sought  to  increase  the  supplies 
of  depth-charges,  develop  the  hydrophone,  arm  defensively 
the  whole  Mercantile  Marine,  and  provide  ships  with 
trained  guns'  crews  ;  to  extend  the  supply  and  use  of 
smoke-screen  apparatus  ;  to  concentrate  the  patrols  on 
the  traffic  routes  and  reorganise  the  work  of  the  Auxiliary 
Patrol  throughout  all  the  areas  on  one  system ;  and  later 
to  institute  the  convoy  system.  Admiral  Duff  recognised 
that  the  vessels  of  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  had  so  well  pro- 
tected merchant  shipping  on  coastwise  passage  and 
approaching  bases  that  the  U-boat  had  now  found  it  more 
profitable  to  operate  outside  the  normal  patrol  limits.  In 
the  northern  part  of  the  North  Sea,  for  instance,  enemy 
submarines  no  longer  approached  close  to  the  coast,  except 
for  mine-laying  and  to  waylay  crippled  ships  returning 
to  their  bases  after  a  Fleet  action.  Trade  in  the  English 
Channel  was  confined  to  a  route  passing  close  to  the  coast, 
guarded  by  these  patrol -vessels,  and  the  crossing  of  the 
English  Channel  was  limited  to  the  hours  of  darkness. 
From  Queenstown  Admiral  Sir  Lewis  Bayly  reported  that 
"  an  immense  quantity  of  traffic  to  and  from  the  English 
Channel,  Bristol  Channel,  and  Irish  Sea  is  now  passing 
along  the  south  coast  of  Ireland." 

Everywhere  round  the  coasts  the  trawlers  and  yachts, 

288  RAIDS   ON  DOVER   STRAITS  [ch.  xiii 

the  drifters  and  M.L.s,  the  paddlers  and  other  craft  were 

hard  at  it  patrolling,  sweeping,  convoying,  salving,  and 

doing  a  multitude  of  jobs  throughout  the  third  winter  of 

the  war.     Whilst  the  small  craft  and  their  crews  were 

doing  all  that  could  be  done,  scientific  minds  on  shore 

were  seeking  to  devise  or  improve  anti-submarine  methods. 

This  meant  a  series  of  experiments,  which  in  turn  meant 

months  of  delay  before  the  Auxiliary  Patrol  could  avail 

themselves  of  such  aids.     While  in  the  Mediterranean  and 

Adriatic  the  patrols  were  toiling  with  their  peculiar  phase 

of  the  submarine  problem,  each  area  of  the  British  Isles 

was  using  its  scant  forces  as  best  it  could.     Irish  waters, 

by  reason  of  the  approaches  to  our  western  ports  being 

so  tempting  a  bait,  were  being  patrolled  by  sloops  and 

trawlers,  drifters,  an  armed  yacht  or  two,  flotillas  of  M.L.s, 

and   decoy-ships.     The   English  Channel,  in  view   of  its 

contiguity  to  France,  presented  special  difficulties.     From 

Le  Havre  worked  six  armed  trawlers,  four  mine-sweeping 

trawlers,  and   twenty-six  net  drifters.     The   last   named 

were  eventually  based  on  Trouville  and  rode  to  their  nets 

on  the  flank  of  the  transport  channel  off  the  entrance  to 

Le  Havre.     In  the  North  Sea  the  routine  was  adapted  to 

the  special  needs.      Grimsby  mine-sw'eepers,  for  example, 

were  always  at  sea  sweeping  the  "  War  Channel  "  from  the 

Spurn  to  Whitby.     Every  day  the   paddlers  swept  the 

Humber,  its  approaches,  and  the  Inner  Dowsing  Channel. 

Armed  trawlers  were  patrolling  from  Scarborough  to  the 

Haisborough  ;    net  drifters  with  their  nets  were  ten  miles 

seaward  of  Flamborough  to  harass   submarines   making 

their  land-fall  thereabout ;    south  of  Flamborough  head 

and  north  of  Cromer  other  armed  trawlers  were  stationed 

to  look  out  for  Zeppelins,  and  M.L.s  were  off  the  Spm-n 

doing  their  patrol  and  regulating  traffic. 

The  year  1917  did  not  open  auspiciously  for  us. 
Almost  as  soon  as  it  began  a  submarine  sank  by  gun- 
fire six  fishing-smacks  and  one  Ostend  trawler  off  Trevose 
Head,  Cornwall,  and  two  more  smacks  were  sunk  a  couple 
of  days  later.  Off  the  north-east  English  coast  the  enemy 
still  made  his  assaults  on  our  fishing -fleets  and  on  individual 
trawlers.  Food  in  the  British  Isles,  but  more  particularly 
in  Great  Britain,  was  beginning  to  get  scarce,  and  the 
importance  of  fish  was  increasingly  realised  day  by  day. 
The  Germans  w^ere  not  unconscious  of  the  fact  and  devoted 


a  good  deal  of  attention  to  the  trawlers,  whether  commis- 
sioned units  of  His  Majesty's  Navy  or  peaceful  harvesters 
of  the  sea.     In  the  forenoon  of  January  28th  the  fishing 
steam-trawler  Alexandra  was  homeward  bound  with  her 
cargo  of  fish  and  in  another  five  or  six  hours  was  expecting 
to  make  the  land.     When  she  was  about  sixty  miles  east 
of  the  Longstone,  UC32  stopped    her,  took  her  skipper 
prisoner,  placed  the  rest  of  the  fishing  crew  on  board  a 
neutral  ship  and,  having  sunk  the  Alexandra,  went  on 
her  way.     A  few  hours  later  this  submarine  sighted  a  few 
more  trawlers  at  their  work,  amongst  them  being  the 
Thistle,  Petrel,  and  Mayfly.  She  waited  until  daylight  and 
then  came  close  to  the  PetreVs  boat,  ordered  it  alongside, 
and  put  Warrant  Officer   Bernhard  Haack   into  it  with 
some  bombs,  a  revolver,  and  a  bandolier.    UC32  proceeded 
to  sink  the  Thistle,  while  Haack  was  rowed  off  towards  the 
Mayfly  two  miles  to  the  south-east  in  order  to  sink  her 
with  his  explosives.     In  this  plan  he  never  succeeded  ;  for 
with  dramatic  suddenness  there  now  appeared  on  the  scene 
the  armed  trawler  Speedwell.     The  submarine  opened  fire, 
and  the  Speedwell  replied  vigorously.     This  was  too  much 
for  the  enemy  craft,  which  hurriedly  dived  with  a  heavy 
list,  due,  no  doubt,  to  having  put  her  helm  hard  over. 
This    left    Warrant  Officer   Haack  in  a   most   ridiculous 
plight  !     He  had  a  bag  full  of  bombs,  but  his  ship  had  gone 
without  him,  and  he  was  left  among  a  lot  of  trawlermen 
whose    affection   he    had   scarcely   won.     With   Teutonic 
impudence  he  requested  the  trawler  skippers  to  put  him 
on  board  a  certain  Scandinavian  steamer  which  was  in 
sight.     Needless  to  say  this  request  was  not  granted.     He 
was  taken  below  on  board  one  of  the  trawlers,  desperately 
perturbed  as  to  what  fate  awaited  him,  a  hearty  North  Sea 
skipper    following    behind    him.     Then,    abandoning    his 
bombs,  his  revolver,  and  his   bandolier  to  the   Thistle's 
skipper,  he  became  the  prisoner  instead  of  the  captor.     At 
four  in  the  afternoon  he  was  handed  over  to  a  patrol-boat. 
His  fate  was  indeed  a  fortunate  one,  for  about  a  month 
later  UC32  came  to  her  end  and  her  crew  was  destroyed 
with  her. 




At  the  beginning  of  1916  controversy  still  raged  in  Ger- 
many as  to  the  advisability  of  employing  submarines 
against  commerce,  not  only  in  the  Mediterranean,  but 
in  British  waters,  alike  ignoring  the  rules  the  German 
Government  had  promised  to  observe  and  the  protests 
of  neutrals.  The  torpedoing  under  peculiarly  dis- 
tressing circumstances  of  the  Italian  liner  Ancona  on 
November  7th  by  a  submarine  flying  the  Austrian  flag 
had  again  roused  widespread  indignation.  In  the  closing 
months  of  1915  Admiral  Bachmann  had  been  succeeded 
as  Chief  of  the  Naval  Staff  by  Admiral  von  Holtzendorf, 
who  busied  himself  preparing  a  series  of  memoranda, 
insisting  on  the  necessity  of  unrestricted  submarine  opera- 
tions. On  February  1st  he  assured  Admiral  Scheer,  Com- 
mander-in-Chief of  the  High  Seas  Fleet,  that  the  unre- 
stricted U-boat  campaign  would  be  inaugurated  on  March 
1st.  The  Germans  had  been  watching  the  development  of 
British  policy  of  arming  merchant  ships,  and  on  February 
10th  the  Germans  sent  a  Note  to  the  United  States  stating 
that  defensively  armed  merchant  ships  would  from  March 
1st  be  regarded  as  warships.  The  argument  was  quite 
unsound.  For  centuries  trading  ships  have  always  had 
the  right  to  arm  in  their  own  defence  without  changing 
their  status  as  merchantmen,  and  when  the  German  Note 
was  presented  there  was  not  a  government  in  the  world 
which  would  have  endorsed  its  reasoning.  British  armed 
liners  were  at  this  time  visiting  the  ports  of  every  neutral 
country  in  the  world,  and  in  no  case  were  they  treated  like 
warships.  The  United  States  Government  a  fortnight 
later  informed  Germany  that  she  would  not  in  any  way 



abrogate  the  right  of  American  citizens  in  the  matter  of 
traveUing  by  sea. 

The  German  Emperor,  as  well  as  the  Chancellor,  still 
entertained  doubts  as  to  the  wisdom  of  the  course  which  it 
was  proposed  to  adopt,  but  in  the  meantime,  as  events 
were  to  show,  the  submarine  commanders  were  themselves 
taking  action  at  sea.  Early  in  March  a  meeting  was  held 
at  General  Headquarters,  and,  in  spite  of  all  the  pressure 
exerted  by  the  naval  authorities,  decisive  action  was  post- 
poned. Admiral  von  Tirpitz  was  ignored  by  the  Emperor 
during  this  crisis,  and  a  few  days  later  resigned  and  was 
succeeded  by  Admiral  von  Capelle. 

The  month  of  January  had  proved  a  disappointing  one 
for  the  enemy's  submarines  in  the  Mediterranean,  and 
February  was  little  better,  but  the  Germans  found  some 
consolation  in  the  early  captures  which  were  made  by 
the  Mowe  off  Finisterre.  Only  four  ships  besides  the 
Coquet  were  sunk  by  enemy  submarines  during  January. 
Among  these  was  the  steamer  Marere  (6,443  tons).  She 
had  been  given  a  3-pounder  Hotchkiss  gun,  and  when  a 
submarine  was  observed  on  the  morning  of  January  18th 
the  master  (Mr.  P.  E.  Mello)  determined  to  make  a  fight  for 
his  ship.  Malta,  the  nearest  landfall,  was  236  miles  dis- 
tant. As  soon  as  the  enemy  was  sighted,  course  was 
altered  to  bring  the  submarine  astern  ;  all  hands  were 
called  to  their  stations  ;  the  gun  was  manned  ;  instructions 
were  given  for  the  highest  possible  speed,  and  a  wireless 
call  for  assistance  was  dispatched.  Within  about  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  an  answering  signal  was  received  from 
Malta.  After  the  position  and  course  of  the  Marere  had 
been  given,  the  following  reply  came  :  "  If  you  fire  you 
will  compel  him  to  dive  and  you  will  be  safe,  as  his  speed 
under  water  is  small :  you  must  not  surrender."  Captain 
Mello  was  soon  compelled  to  put  this  advice  to  the  test. 

The  submarine  had  been  gaining  upon  him,  and  at 
length  dropped  a  shell  one  hundred  yards  astern.  The 
Marere  replied  immediately  with  her  little  gun,  but,  owing 
to  the  superior  armament  of  the  enemy,  the  duel  was 
hopeless.  The  3-pounder  shells  fell  far  short  of  the  enemy, 
who  maintained  a  continuous  fire.  His  shells  fell  all  round 
the  merchantman  and  sent  spray  over  the  bridge  and 
deck,  but  failed  to  hit  her.  Immediately  the  Marere's 
first  shot  had  been  fired,  it  was  noticed  that  the  bolts 


holding  down  the  Hotchkiss  gun  were  beginning  to  give. 
Under  this  handicap,  the  Marine  gunners  fired  about  ten 
rounds  at  the  extreme  range.  With  each  shot  the  stability 
of  the  gun  became  worse,  and  not  a  single  projectile 
dropped  anywhere  near  the  enemy.  At  last  the  corporal 
reported  to  Captain  Mello  that  the  gun  was  out  of  action, 
and  at  that  moment  the  ship  was  struck.  Nothing  more 
could  be  done,  so  the  boats  were  ordered  out  and  every 
preparation  was  made  to  abandon  ship.  During  the  few 
anxious  minutes  w^hich  followed,  shells  continued  to  fall 
on  the  doomed  steamer.  "  On  observing  the  boats  pull 
away,"  Captain  Mello  afterwards  stated,  "the  submarine 
fired  several  rounds  at  the  boats,  fortunately  missing." 

The  hospital  ship  Neuralia  had  by  this  time  come  upon 
the  scene,  and  the  loaded  boats  turned  towards  her,  while 
the  submarine,  having  fired  two  torpedoes,  both  of  which 
missed,  dived  out  of  sight.  The  enemy,  however,  soon 
reappeared  and  fire  was  again  opened  on  the  Marere,  which 
was  down  by  the  head  and  listing  badly  when  last  seen  by 
her  crew.  The  loss  of  this  ship  revealed  the  ineffectiveness 
of  the  3-pounder  gun  when  opposed  by  a  well-handled 
submarine,  carrying  a  more  powerful  armament.  To  make 
matters  worse,  this  particular  3-pounder  had,  as  events 
showed,  a  defective  mounting.  In  contrast  with  the  fate 
of  the  Marere,  seven  other  defensively  armed  ships  suc- 
ceeded during  January  in  effecting  their  escape  from 
submarines.  By  this  time  an  increasing  number  of  mer- 
chant ships  had  been  provided  with  guns,  and  experience 
was  showing  that  an  armament,  if  sufficiently  powerful, 
was  of  considerable  value,  apart  from  its  psychological 
influence  in  giving  confidence  to  the  merchant  seamen 
when  suddenly  attacked  by  submarines. 

The  loss  of  shipping  from  the  submarine  campaign  was 
again  comparatively  light  in  the  month  of  February  ;  seven 
vessels,  of  24,059  tons,  were  sunk  with  a  loss  of  thirty- 
four  lives,  as  compared  with  five,  of  27,974  tons,  in  the 
preceding  month,  when  the  death-roll  was  twenty-eight. 
The  activities  of  the  enemy  raider  Mowe,  in  association 
with  sinkings  on  mines  and  the  destruction  of  a  small 
vessel  off  the  Kentish  Knock  by  a  Zeppelin,  raised  the 
casualties  to  twenty-six  ships,  of  75,860  tons,  and  the 
death-roll  leapt  up  to  291.  For  this  sudden  upward 
movement,  the  destruction  of  the  Maloja  (12,431  tons) 

CH.  xiv]  A   GALLANT   SACRIFICE  293 

by  a  mine  two  miles  south  from  Dover  Pier,  with  a  casualty- 
list  of  122,  was  mainly  responsible.  The  Empress  of  Fort 
William  (2,181  tons)  and  the  Thornaby  (1,732  tons)  met  a 
similar  fate,  the  master  of  the  latter  ship,  as  well  as  eighteen 
of  his  crew,  being  killed. 

The  manner  in  which  merchant  seamen  were  adapting 
the  laws  of  the  brotherhood  of  the  sea  to  the  novel  and 
unnerving  situation  which  confronted  them  was  illustrated 
by  the  plucky  action  of  the  master  (Mr.  R.  Buckley)  of 
the  small  steamship  Cedarwood  (654  tons).  With  a  crew 
of  twelve  hands  he  was  creeping  down  the  East  Coast  on 
February  12th  with  a  cargo  of  pig  iron  consigned  to  a 
French  port,  and  had  reached  a  position  off  Aldeburgh 
Napes  when  his  eye  lighted  on  a  mine,  which  gleamed 
bright  red  with  the  rise  and  fall  of  the  sea.  The  wind  was 
high  and  the  choppy  sea  revealed  and  hid  it  from  time  to 
time.  Was  this  evidence  of  the  existence  of  an  enemy 
mine-field  ?  Captain  Buckley  decided  that,  if  he  erred, 
it  should  be  on  the  safe  side.  Over  a  dozen  other  ships 
were  following  in  his  track,  so  he  hoisted  signal  flags  to 
warn  them  of  submarine  mines  and  also  had  his  steam 
whistle  sounded.  Furthermore,  he  kept  the  Cedarwood 
steaming  round  the  mine  he  had  discovered  in  the  con- 
fident expectation  that  a  patrol-boat  would  come  on  the 
scene  and  destroy  it. 

In  saving  the  other  ships  he  sealed  the  fate  of  the 
Cedarwood.  For  suddenly  there  was  an  explosion : 
the  fore  end  of  his  vessel  rose  in  the  air  and  the 
upper  bridge,  on  which  he  was  standing  with  the  mate, 
seemed  to  fall  away  from  under  his  feet,  and  he  found 
himself  in  the  water,  clinging  to  the  flagstaff  on  the  stern 
of  the  Cedarwood.  He  must  have  been  carried  right  aft  by 
the  force  of  the  water.  He  was  sucked  beneath  the  waves, 
but  when  he  reached  the  surface  again  managed  to  reach 
a  hatch  which  was  floating  near  at  hand.  Several  members 
of  the  crew  had  also  secured  pieces  of  wreckage,  and 
eventually  six  survivors  were  rescued  by  boats  of  the 
Binavor,  which,  very  fortuitously,  reached  them  before 
they  had  succumbed  to  the  cold  and  exposure.  Captain 
Buckley's  prompt  signals  were  probably  the  means  of  sav- 
ing several  of  the  ships  astern  of  him  from  destruction, 
and  in  recognition  of  his  thoughtful  action  he  was  pre- 
sented with  a  gold  watch  by  the  London  Group  of  War 


Risk  Associations.  So  much  for  the  mine-fields,  which 
in  this  month,  as  has  been  stated,  were  responsible  for  the 
loss  of  a  good  deal  of  merchant  shipping ;  but,  so  far  as 
the  submarine  campaign  was  concerned,  February  was 
a  poor  month  for  the  enemy. 

One  incident  in  the  month,  however,  stands  out  from 
the  official  records — the  destruction  of  the  Franz  Fischer 
(970  tons)  by  a  Zeppelin  south  of  the  Kentish  Knock. 
It  was  the  first  success  achieved  by  an  airship  operating 
against  a  merchant  vessel.  This  little  ship — an  ex-German 
collier — ^was  making  her  way  from  Hartlepool  to  Cowes, 
when  on  the  evening  of  February  1st,  which  was  very 
dark,  the  master  was  warned  by  a  patrol-boat  that  there 
were  mines  ahead  of  him.  So,  as  it  was  difficult  to  see 
anything,  he  decided  to  anchor  for  the  night.  The  engines 
had  been  stopped  by  10  o'clock  and  the  Franz  Fischer 
anchored  about  eight  miles  north  of  the  Kentish  Knock, 
where  a  number  of  other  ships  were  already  lying.  The 
chief  engineer  (Mr.  J.  H.  Birch),  having  pumped  up  liis 
boilers,  closed  all  connections.  Satisfied  that  everytliing 
was  snug  for  the  night,  he  joined  the  captain  in  his 
cabin  and  there  the  two  seamen  sat  talking.  Suddenly 
a  noise  was  heard  overhead,  wliich  it  was  at  first  thought 
proceeded  from  an  aeroplane.  It  gradually  increased. 
As  one  of  the  able  seamen  remarked  afterwards,  "  The 
sound  was  like  several  express  trains  crossing  a  bridge 

The  noise  attracted  the  attention  of  the  two  officers 
in  the  cabin,  and  then  the  mate,  who  had  come  off 
the  bridge,  knocked  against  the  bulkhead  and  asked  the 
captain  if  he  had  heard  the  strange  sounds.  "  Yes  ;  what 
is  it  ?  "  was  the  reply.  The  mate  did  not  hazard  an 
opinion,  but  as  the  noise  increased  the  master  decided  to 
go  himself  on  deck  and  see  what  was  happening.  So, 
followed  by  the  chief  engineer,  he  left  the  cabin,  but  by 
that  time  silence  reigned  once  more.  The  Zeppelin  had 
evidently  stopped  her  engines  in  order  to  take  a  sitting 
shot.  Then  a  violent  explosion  occurred,  due  to  a  bomb 
which  had  hit  the  Frariz  Fischer  amidships  on  the  port 
side.  The  master  and  his  companion  were  knocked  down 
by  a  column  of  water  which  fell  upon  them,  but  shortly 
afterwards  they  succeeded  in  reaching  the  bridge  deck. 
The  ship  had  been  shaken  from  end  to  end,  but  nothing 


suggested  that  she  had  been  mortally  injured.  Neverthe- 
less, the  chief  engineer  called  the  men  up  from  below,  and 
in  a  few  minutes  the  hands — all,  except  those  who  had 
been  on  watch,  practically  naked — had  assembled  by  the 
boats.  The  boats  were  got  out,  but  some  difficulty  was 
experienced  in  cutting  away  the  falls.  A  man  ran  to  the 
galley  for  a  knife,  but  before  he  returned  the  ship  turned 
over  on  her  port  side  and  went  down  by  her  head  "  like  a 
stone,"  everyone  being  flung  into  the  water. 

Owing  to  the  suddenness  of  the  emergency  and  the 
darkness,  it  seemed  as  though  the  whole  crew  must  be 
drowned,  and  there  were  indeed  only  three  survivors. 
When  the  chief  engineer  rose  to  the  surf  ace,  his  eyes,  piercing 
the  darkness,  fell  on  a  lifebelt  box,  which  had  usually 
stood  on  the  bridge  ;  it  was  floating  not  far  away.  He 
swam  towards  it  and  fomid  temporary  safety.  He  was 
joined  on  this  piece  of  wreckage  by  other  members  of  the 
crew,  until  there  were  no  fewer  than  eight  of  them,  in- 
cluding the  second  mate,  hanging  on  for  very  life.  Some 
of  the  men  endeavoured  to  climb  on  to  the  top  of  the  box, 
with  the  result  that  it  rolled  over.  This  experience  was 
repeated  several  times,  and  each  time  one  or  more  of  the 
men  were  missing.  At  last  the  chief  engineer  decided  to 
seek  some  surer  means  of  safety  and  he  swam  towards  a 
lifebelt.  He  secured  it,  put  it  around  him  as  best  he 
could  and,  with  this  aid,  swimming  a  little  now  and  again, 
he  managed  to  keep  afloat.  He  afterwards  lost  conscious- 
ness, and  when  he  recovered  found  that  he  was  in  a  life- 
boat belonging  to  the  Belgian  steamer  Paul. 

In  the  meantime,  the  desperate  men  clinging  to  the 
lifebelt  box  dropped  off  one  after  the  other  until  only  Able 
Seaman  Hillier  and  the  donkey-man  remained.  They 
were  in  the  last  stages  of  exhaustion,  and  at  last  Hillier 
alone  remained.  Fortunately  the  PauVs  boat  reached  him 
just  in  time.  It  was  not  known  until  afterwards  that  the 
Paul  had  been  lying  at  anchor  about  a  mile  away  from 
the  Franz  Fischer  when  the  bomb  exploded  on  the  latter 
ship.  As  soon  as  the  cries  for  help  from  the  distressed 
seamen  struggling  in  the  water  were  heard,  the  Paul 
tried  to  heave  her  anchor,  but  without  success.  A  boat 
was  then  lowered  and  put  out  into  the  pitchy  darkness. 
Cries  could  be  heard,  but  it  was  impossible  to  see  anj'thing. 
But  at  length  the  Belgians  came  across  the  only  three 


siirvivors^ — the  able  seaman  desperately  clinging  to  the  box, 
the  chief  engineer,  looking  as  though  he  were  already  dead, 
and  the  steward,  who  had  also  kept  himself  afloat  by  means 
of  a  lifebelt,  in  the  last  stages  of  collapse.  The  troubles 
of  these  unfortunate  men  were  not  yet  ended.  For  the 
boat,  manned  by  the  mate,  the  boatswain,  a  seaman  and 
a  fireman  of  the  Paid,  was  carried  out  to  sea  by  the  tide. 
Signals  convinced  the  master  that  the  boat  could  make  no 
headway  against  the  current,  and  at  last,  despite  a  series 
of  mishaps,  he  got  under  way.  It  was  still  very  dark, 
and  not  until  three  hours  had  passed  did  he  succeed  in 
picking  up  the  boat.  By  that  time  the  three  men  of  the 
Franz  Fischer  appeared  more  dead  than  alive,  but  warm 
drinks  and  food  soon  enabled  them  to  recover. 

As  a  footnote  to  this  record  of  the  end  of  the  Franz 
Fischer,  it  is  interesting  to  recall  the  sequence  of  events. 
On  January  31st  the  enemy  had  carried  out  an  airship  raid 
on  England,  penetrating  farther  westward  than  ever 
before  ;  on  the  succeeding  day  one  of  the  airships — the 
Ll9,  as  was  afterwards  learnt — had  destroyed  the  Franz 
Fischer  with  a  loss  of  thirteen  lives,  including  the  master  ; 
and  early  on  the  morning  of  February  2nd  the  Ll9  herself, 
a  miserable  tangle  of  wreckage,  foundered  in  the  North 
Sea.  In  this  way  retribution  was  exacted  for  the  heavy 
loss  of  life  which  resulted  from  the  raid  on  shore  and  the 
bombing  of  the  defenceless  Franz  Fischer. 

The  capture  of  the  Teutonian  (4,824  tons)  by  a  sub- 
marine, March  4th,  was  the  first  evidence  that  the  sub- 
marine campaign  in  home  waters  was  being  resumed  by 
the  German  naval  authorities,  despite  the  hesitation  of  the 
Kaiser  and  the  Imperial  Chancellor.  This  vessel  (master, 
Mr.  R.  D.  Collins)  was  on  voyage  from  Sabine,  Newport 
News,  to  Avonmouth.  All  had  gone  well  until  the  morning 
of  the  4th.  She  was  then  thirty-six  miles  S.W.  by  W.  of 
the  Fastnet  when  the  officer  on  the  bridge  reported  a  sub- 
marine on  the  starboard  quarter.  Judging  by  the  widely 
advertised  orders  of  the  German  Government  no  attack 
was  to  be  expected,  but  Captain  Collins  rang  for  "  Full 
speed  ahead."  Thus  a  chase  began,  for  the  submarine 
gradually  overhauled  the  merchantman.  The  enemy 
fired  three  shots, and  in  response  to  this  warning  the  engines 
of  the  Teutonian  were  stopped.  The  submarine,  after 
taking  up  a  position  on  the  port  beam,  forthwith  sub- 

CH.  xivj       SUBMARINE   CAMPAIGN   REOPENED        297 

merged,  and  without  more  ado,  fired  a  torpedo  which 
struck  the  vessel  forward.  Fortunately  the  master  had 
already  ordered  the  crew  into  the  boats,  and  as  soon  as 
he  realised  that  his  vessel  was  doomed,  he  himself  slid  down 
the  ship's  side  into  the  water  and  swam  towards  one  of 
the  boats,  which  took  him  on  board.  The  submarine  re- 
appeared on  the  surface  and  fired  thirty-six  shells,  which 
caused  the  Teutonian  to  burst  into  flames,  which  burnt 
fiercely  until  she  sank  a  little  short  of  three  and  a  half  hours 
from  the  opening  of  the  attack.  By  a  happy  chance  a  patrol- 
boat  soon  came  on  the  scene  and  rescued  the  crew,  landing 
them  in  due  course  at  Berehaven,  so  no  one  was  much  the 
worse  for  the  adventure,  though  everyone  lost  all  his 
belongings  and  the  ship  had  disappeared. 

In  thus  wise  the  submarine  campaign  in  British  waters 
was  reopened,  despite  restraining  influences  in  Germany, 
from  the  Kaiser  and  the  Imperial  Chancellor  downwards. 
As  the  experience  of  the  Teutonian  had  revealed,  the 
enemy  commanders  had  determined  to  treat  prize  law  with 
contempt  and  to  sink  merchant  vessels  out  of  hand  wherever 
they  were  encountered,  without  regard  for  the  safety  of 
the  crews  on  board.  On  the  following  day  the  Rothesay 
(2,007  tons)  was  torpedoed  thirty  miles  from  the  Bishop 
Rock  ;  on  the  8th  the  Harmatres  (6,387  tons)  was  destroyed 
without  warning  near  Boulogne  breakwater,  four  men 
being  killed  ;  on  the  16th  the  little  saihng-vessel  Willie 
(185  tons)  was  sunk  by  gunfire  off  the  Fastnet ;  two  days 
later  the  Lowlands  (1,789  tons)  was  torpedoed  without 
warning  of  any  kind  eight  miles  N.E.  by  E.  from  the 
North  Foreland,  and  then  occurred  the  sinking  of  the 
Port  Dalhousie  (1,744  tons),  with  the  loss  of  eleven  of  her 
crew,  as  well  as  the  master.  This  vessel  was  on  her  way 
from  Middlesbrough  to  Nantes,  and  on  the  advice  of  the 
pilot,  who  had  come  on  board  at  Yarmouth,  the  master 
dropped  anchor  on  the  evening  of  March  18th  about  two 
miles  N.  by  E.  from  the  Kentish  Knock  Light-vessel. 
Shortly  after  midnight  she  was  torpedoed.  In  the  words 
of  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  W.  F,  Spurr) : 

"  The  Port  Dalhousie  was  lying  to  her  anchor,  the  sea 
watch  being  continued,  when  a  loud  hissing  was  heard 
by  me  and  I  looked  to  see  what  it  was  caused  by.  Almost 
immediately  the  ship  was  struck  by,  I  believe,  a  torpedo 


amidships  on  the  port  side.  She  sank  within  one  minute. 
Only  myself,  three  seamen,  and  two  firemen  were  saved  by 
jumping  into  the  water  or  being  washed  off  the  deck  as 
the  ship  submerged  and  then  seizing  floating  hatches. 
We  were  in  the  water  one  and  three-quarter  hours,  and 
were  rescued  by  the  steamer  Jessie  and  transferred  to  a 
patrol-boat  and  landed  at  Ramsgate  at  11  p.m.  yesterday 
(March  19th)." 

That  is  the  unadorned  record  by  a  seaman  of  the  end 
of  his  ship  and  the  deaths  of  twelve  of  his  fellows.  What- 
ever might  be  the  confusion  of  policy  in  Germany,  there 
was  no  doubt  by  this  time  of  the  character  of  the  acts  by 
sea  of  the  submarine  commanders. 

An  effective  contrast  to  many  stories  of  sinkings  which 
were  being  received  by  the  Admiralty  was  provided  by  the 
escape  of  the  Anglo-Saxon  Petroleum  Company's  oil-tanker 
Turbo  (4,782  tons),  which  gained  for  the  master  (Mr.  J. 
Hill)  a  mention  in  despatches.  This  vessel  had  been  given 
a  12-pounder  gun,  and  though  she  had  a  speed  of  only 
about  10  knots,  she  managed  to  outmanoeuvre  the  enemy. 
Early  in  the  morning  of  March  1st — at  5.45,  to  be  exact — 
when  she  was  in  the  Mediterranean,  on  passage  from  Port 
Said  to  London,  a  submarine,  four  miles  distant  on  the 
port  bow,  opened  fire  on  her.  Altering  course  in  order  to 
bring  the  enemy  astern  of  him,  Captain  Hill  ordered  the 
fire  to  be  returned.  The  situation  was  a  trying  one,  for 
the  Turbo's  crew  consisted  of  fifty-three  Chinese  and  only 
nine  British.  Soon  after  the  duel  opened,  the  Chinamen 
almost  got  out  of  hand,  but  owing  to  the  firmness  of  the 
master  and  the  influence  of  British  members  of  the  crew, 
they  were  induced  to  keep  at  their  stations.  For  upwards 
of  half  an  hour  the  enemy  continued  the  chase,  gradually 
lessening  the  distance  separating  the  two  vessels  and  firing 
intermittently.  Fortunately  none  of  the  twenty  rounds 
struck  the  merchantman,  while  the  Turbo's  gunners  got 
at  last  so  close  to  the  submarine  that  she  suddenly  aban- 
doned the  action.  Captain  Hill  completed  his  voyage  in 
safety,  his  ship  being  undamaged  and  his  crew  uninjured. 
In  this  instance  speed  and  good  handling  proved  the  means 
of  salvation  of  a  valuable  ship. 

Another  conspicuous  example  of  pluck  and  good  sea- 
manship, which  gained  for  the  master  the  D.S.C.,  besides 


recognition  for  other  officers  and  the  quartermaster, 
was  the  Duendes  (4,602  tons).  This  vessel  was  home- 
ward bound  from  St.  Johns,  N.B.,  to  Plymouth,  and 
was  seventy  miles  west  from  the  Scillies  at  5.40  on  the 
morning  of  March  13th  when  a  shot  fell  astern  of  her. 
The  vessel  was  unarmed  and  her  best  speed  was  only 
about  10 1  knots.  With  hardly  a  thought  of  the  odds 
against  him,  the  master  (Mr.  Albert  Chittenden)  decided 
he  would  resist  capture.  So  he  pressed  on  all  speed  and 
brought  the  enemy  astern  of  him.  His  efforts  were 
splendidly  seconded  by  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  J.  Blacklock), 
the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  W.  Cameron),  Cadet  F.  Bennion 
and  Quartermasters  E.  Dobbins  and  T.  Taylor.  For  an 
hour  the  Difendes  outmanoeuvred  the  submarine,  which 
maintained  a  continuous  fire.  The  vessel  was  hit  nine 
times,  the  wireless  house,  as  well  as  the  bridge,  was  struck 
and  the  wireless  apparatus  put  out  of  action  for  a  time,  but 
otherwise  the  vessel  was  uninjured.  The  submarine 
commander  at  length  came  to  the  conclusion  that  his 
efforts  were  doomed  to  failure.  So  he  abandoned  the  chase 
and  the  Duendes  reached  her  destination  without  further 
molestation.  In  the  case  of  the  Cunard  steamer  Phrygia 
(3,353  tons),  on  the  24th,  a  6-pounder  gun,  admirably 
fought,  in  combination  with  a  heavy  sea,  was  responsible 
for  a  fortunate  escape.  The  submarine  could  not  get  on 
her  target,  while  the  gunners  of  the  Phrygia,  at  a  range  of 
1,500  yards,  hit  the  enemy  twice.  The  first  shot  caused 
her  to  emit  a  thick  cloud  of  smoke  and  to  list  heavily  to 
starboard.  She  then  up-ended,  and  while  in  this  position 
was  struck  again,  and  nothing  more  was  seen  of  her. 
The  master  (Mr.  F.  Manley)  was  mentioned  in  despatches 
for  saving  his  ship. 

During  the  latter  part  of  the  month  the  mine  peril 
became  very  serious.  Two  of  the  most  conspicuous 
disasters  must  be  mentioned.  The  Sea  Serpent  (902  tons) 
went  down  on  the  23rd  off  Folkestone  Pier,  with  the  result 
that  the  master  (Mr,  W.  Philps)  and  thirteen  of  his  crew 
were  killed  ;  and  on  the  last  day  of  the  month  the 
Alacrity  (1,080  tons)  disappeared  in  mysterious  circum- 
stances. She  sailed  in  ballast  from  Le  Havre  for  Seaham 
Harbour  on  the  29th,  passed  through  the  Downs  on  the 
night  of  the  30th-31st,  and  then  all  trace  of  her  was  lost. 
She  was  an  old  ship,  having  been  built  in  1883,  but  on  the 


eve  of  the  war  she  had  been  thoroughly  overhauled  by  her 
owners,  so  that  there  was  every  reason  to  assume  that 
she  was  seaworthy.  Evidence  eventually  pointed  un- 
mistakably to  the  conclusion  that  she  had  struck  a  mine 
and  had  sunk,  carrying  with  her  the  master  (Mr.  J.  Dickin- 
son) as  well  as  the  crew  of  thirteen  hands. 

The  enemy's  submarine  operations  during  March  also 
led  to  considerable  loss  of  life,  the  most  serious  case  being 
that  of  the  Minneapolis  (13,543  tons).  The  depositions 
of  the  master  (Mr.  F.  O.  Hasker)  suggest  vividly  the  condi- 
tions which  then  prevailed  at  sea.  For  several  weeks  past 
the  enemy  submarines  had  met  with  little  success  in  the 
Mediterranean,  but  the  usual  precautions  had  been  en- 
forced on  all  masters.  The  Minneapolis  left  Marseilles 
for  Alexandria  on  March  20th.  She  followed  the  course 
given  her  by  the  Divisional  Naval  Transport  Officer.  All 
the  usual  water-tight  doors  were  closed  ;  boats  were 
swung  out,  lowered  half-way,  and  then  f rapped  in  to 
secure  them  ;  and  Captain  Hasker  issued  a  general  caution 
that  a  good  lookout  should  be  maintained.  The  Minne- 
apolis was  proceeding  at  full  speed  on  the  morning  of  the 
23rd,  and  zigzagging  in  accordance  with  Admiralty  in- 
structions, when  an  explosion  occurred  in  the  forward 
end  of  the  engine-room  on  the  port  side.  No  submarine 
had  been  observed.  The  second  officer  was  in  charge  on 
the  bridge,  an  A.B.  was  stationed  on  the  fo'c'sle  head, 
another  A.B.  was  in  the  crow's-nest,  and  there  was  of  course 
a  quartermaster  at  the  wheel.  The  ship  was  travelling  at 
between  15  to  15|  knots.  The  second  officer  saw  a  torpedo 
approaching  the  vessel  at  right  angles,  but  it  was  too  late 
to  do  anything  beyond  sounding  the  whistle  for  stations 
before  the  Minneapolis  reeled  under  the  explosion.  Cap- 
tain Hasker,  who  had  been  on  the  lower  bridge,  then  took 

On  going  below,  the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  R.  P.  Palmer) 
found  the  engine-room  flooded,  the  water  having  already 
risen  to  within  two  feet  of  the  top  of  the  engines. 
Measures  were  immediately  taken  to  close  the  remaining 
water-tight  doors,  which  had  been  left  open  to  enable  the 
ship  to  be  worked.  In  spite  of  every  precaution,  however, 
the  ship  gradually  sank  by  the  stern,  while  the  engines 
stopped  of  their  own  accord.  Nine  of  the  staff  who  were 
down  below  at  the  time  of  the  explosion  were  apparently 

CH.  XIV]       LOSS   OF   THE   "MINNEAPOLIS"  301 

killed  instantly  when  the  vessel  was  struck.  In  a  com- 
paratively short  time,  most  of  the  crew  had  taken  to  the 
boats  or  rafts  ;  the  master,  with  the  otherofficers,  engineers, 
and  the  carpenter's  mate,  remained  for  the  time  on  board 
the  vessel.  Fortunately,  early  in  the  afternoon  two  men- 
of-war  came  to  the  assistance  of  the  distressed  seamen, 
and  an  attempt  was  made  to  tow  the  Minneapolis.  For  a 
time  the  operation  was  continued  with  some  success,  but 
at  11  o'clock  that  night  the  rope  parted,  and  it  broke 
again  early  the  following  morning.  At  last  H.M.S. 
Nasturtium  took  over  the  task  of  towing  the  ship  from 
H.M.S.  Lydiard.  Assisted  by  a  trawler  made  fast  on 
each  quarter  of  the  Minneapolis,  the  Nasturtium  stuck 
to  the  job  until  midnight  and  it  was  then  apparent  that 
the  vessel  could  not  remain  much  longer  afloat.  Shortly 
after  midnight  this  anticipation  was  fulfilled  and  she  sank 
stern  first,  three  men,  in  addition  to  the  nine  engine-room 
hands,  having  lost  their  lives  as  the  result  of  the  enemy's 
criminal  act.  From  first  to  last  nothing  was  seen  of  the 

This  tragedy  occurred  195  miles  E.  |  N.  from  Malta, 
and  on  the  following  day  the  Englishman  (5,257  tons) 
was  sunk  by  a  submarine  thirty  miles  north-east  from 
Malin  Head,  supplying  evidence,  supported  by  the  sink- 
ing on  the  same  day  off  Dungcness  and  Bishop  Rock 
respectively  of  the  Salybia  (3,352  tons)  and  the  Fenay 
Bridge  (3,838  tons),  that  the  enemy  was  working  simul- 
taneously in  British  waters  as  well  as  in  the  Mediterranean. 
The  Englishman  (master,  Mr.  W.  A.  Moorehouse)  sailed 
from  Avonmouth  for  Portland,  Mayne,  on  the  22nd,  and 
on  the  morning  of  the  second  day  out  passed  Oversay, 
Isle  of  Islay,  steering,  in  accordance  with  Admiralty  in- 
structions, in  a  north-westerly  direction.  Shortly  after 
noon  Captain  Moorehouse  sighted  a  submarine  on  the 
surface,  one  point  on  the  starboard  quarter  about  a  mile 
away.  The  weather  was  fine  and  clear.  The  enemy  was 
flying  flags,  evidently  attempting  to  signal,  but  the  master 
was  determined  not  to  sacrifice  his  ship  without  making, 
at  any  rate,  an  attempt  to  escape.  So  he  put  his  helm  to 
starboard  and  rang  for  extra  speed,  thus  bringing  the 
submarine  right  astern  of  him.  The  submarine  also 
altered  course  and,  giving  chase,  opened  a  steady  fire 
upon  the  merchantman. 


Captain  Moorehouse,  realising  the  desperate  position 
in  which  he  stood,  ordered  the  boats  to  be  lowered  to 
the  rail  and  all  the  members  of  the  crew  who  were  off  duty 
to  stand  by  them.  Within  a  quarter  of  an  hour  of  the 
opening  of  the  chase,  the  davits  of  boats  Nos.  3  and  5  on 
the  starboard  side  were  shot  away,  causing  the  boats  to 
fall  into  the  water,  together  with  about  thirty  men.  The 
ship  was  then  stopped,  and  an  attempt  made  to  pick 
up  the  seamen  who  were  fighting  for  life  in  the  water. 
Ten  of  them  were  rescued  and  then  the  ship  was  abandoned. 
The  submarine,  coming  in  close,  fired  two  torpedoes  into 
her,  one  on  the  starboard  and  the  other  on  the  port  side, 
and  continued  to  fire  into  her  until  she  sank  at  2.30  p.m. 
Though  the  Englishman  and  ten  of  her  crew  were  destroyed, 
the  enemy  expended  two  torpedoes  and  about  forty  shots 
in  the  operation,  and  then,  still  on  the  surface,  she  dis- 
appeared. Three  days  later  the  Manchester  Engineer 
(4,302  tons)  was  torpedoed  near  Coningbeg  Light -vessel  ; 
on  the  following  day  the  Eagle  Point  (5,222  tons)  and  the 
Rio  Tiete  (7,464  tons)  were  captured  in  the  vicinity  of 
Bishop  Rock  and  Ushant  respectively,  and  then  occurred 
the  spirited  attempt  of  the  Goldmouth  (7,446  tons)  to  elude 

This  vessel  was  bringing  home  a  cargo  of  oil  from  Tara- 
kar,  Borneo,  when  she  fell  in  with  a  submarine  while 
crossing  the  Bay  of  Biscay.  The  Goldmouth  had  been 
provided  with  a  small  gun,  so  when  the  submarine's 
conning-tower  was  observed  emerging  out  of  the  water 
about  three  miles  away  on  the  starboard  beam,  the  master 
(Mr.  R.  L.  Allinson)  determined  to  make  a  fight  for  his 
ship,  his  cargo,  and  the  lives  of  his  crew.  As  soon  as  the 
submarine  had  reached  the  surface,  she  opened  fire  from 
her  two  guns.  Everything  was  in  her  favour,  for  she  out- 
ranged the  little  gun  of  the  British  merchantman,  with 
the  result  that  the  two  gunners  of  the  Goldmouth  fought 
under  a  continuous  fire  to  which  they  could  make  no  effec- 
tive reply.  They  continued,  however,  undaunted.  At 
last  one  of  the  enemy's  shells  struck  the  bridge,  on  which 
the  captain  was  standing  ;  another  wTccked  the  officers' 
cabin  ;  and  yet  another,  penetrating  the  deck,  exploded 
in  an  oil-tank.  The  main  steam-pipe  was  damaged,  and 
the  speed  of  the  Goldmotith,  as  she  struggled  through  the 
oil-covered  water,  fell  off  to  3  or  4  knots.     It  seemed  hope- 

CH.  xiv]  THE   "SUSSEX"  INCmENT  303 

less  that  she  could  escape,  but  the  master  remained  on 
the  bridge  with  unconquerable  pluck,  while  the  wireless 
operator  continued  to  send  out  calls  for  help. 

At  last  an  answer  in  code  was  received  from  a  distant 
patrol-vessel,  but  by  that  time  the  master,  having  given 
up  hope  of  escape,  had,  in  accordance  with  Admiralty 
instructions,  thrown  the  weighted  code -book  overboard 
with  his  other  confidential  papers.  At  last  the  wireless 
operator  had  his  foot  shot  away  ;  Captain  Allinson  also 
learnt  that  the  gunners  had  used  their  last  shot,  having 
fired  sixty  altogether.  They  had  been  out-gunned  and 
out-ranged  and,  though  they  had  succeeded  in  keeping 
the  enemy  at  a  distance,  they  had  not  secured  a  single  hit. 
Against  overwhelming  odds — for  the  enemy  fired  about 
200  shots  and  hit  the  vessel  twenty  times — the  master  had 
made  a  fine  attempt  to  save  his  ship.  His  crew  consisted 
of  forty-seven  Chinese  and  twelve  British  seamen,  and  "  all 
behaved  well,  especially  the  British,"  during  an  ordeal 
which  lasted  for  over  an  hour.  Only  two  boats  remained, 
and  into  these  the  crew  took  their  places  as  soon  as  the 
order  to  abandon  ship  had  been  given.  The  submarine 
then  drew  in  and  the  master  was  called  to  go  on  board, 
where,  having  been  roundly  cursed  by  the  German  com- 
mander, he  was  made  prisoner.  In  one  of  the  boats  was 
the  wounded  wireless  operator,  as  well  as  a  Chinaman  who 
had  had  a  finger  shot  away,  but  an  appeal  for  first-aid 
dressings  was  callously  refused.  The  boats  were  ordered 
to  clear  out,  and  then  two  torpedoes  were  put  into  the 
Goldmouth,  which  was  simultaneously  submitted  to  a 
heavy  gunfire.  As  the  ship  sank,  the  submarine  dis- 
appeared. After  three  hours'  pulling  the  boats  were,  by 
a  happy  chance,  picked  up  by  a  trawler.  Captain  Allinson 
was  awarded  the  D.S.C.  and  the  chief  officer  (Mr.  D. 
Pearce)  and  the  wireless  operator  (Mr.  R.  C.  Older)  were 
mentioned  in  despatches. 

During  March  an  incident  occurred  which  was  to  have 
considerable  influence  on  the  enemy  submarine  war.  In 
the  late  afternoon  on  March  24th,  1916,  the  French  cross- 
Channel  packet  Smsex  was  making  her  way  between 
England  and  France  when  she  was  torpedoed  in  lat. 
50°  42'  N.,  long.  1°  11'  E.  She  was  hit  forward,  her  bows 
being  blown  completely  off  as  far  aft  as  the  foremast. 
A  French  trawler  came  on  the  scene  as  well  as  the  British 



destroyer  Afridi,  and  these  two  vessels  took  off  the 
survivors.  Among  the  passengers  aboard  the  Sussex 
were  many  Americans,  of  whom  several  were  killed.  The 
torpedoing  of  this  vessel,  in  face  of  German  pledges,  again 
roused  the  United  States.  The  American  Government 
sent  to  Germany  a  sharp  Note  protesting  against  the 
wrongfulness  of  the  submarine  campaign  against  com- 
merce and  threatening  to  break  off  diplomatic  relations. 
The  result  of  this  Note,  presented  on  April  20th,  was  that 
the  German  Government  capitulated,  and  ordered  the 
Naval  Staff  to  see  that  henceforward  submarine  warfare 
was  carried  out  in  accordance  with  Prize  Law  ;  that  is  to 
say,  the  U-boats  would,  before  sinking  a  merchant  ship, 
come  to  the  surface,  stop  the  prize,  examine  her  papers, 
and  cause  all  passengers  and  crew  to  leave  her.  This 
decision  was  diametrically  opposed  to  the  views  of  naval 
officers  connected  with  the  submarine  service,  who  realised 
that,  what  with  the  proximity  of  destroyers,  trawlers, 
motor-launches,  decoys,  and  other  craft,  they  would  be 
exposed  to  the  greatest  danger,  and  the  submarine  cam- 
paign, which  was  intended  to  bring  Great  Britain  to  her 
knees,  must  fail.  The  U-boats  operating  against  British 
commerce  in  British  waters  were,  therefore,  recalled  on 
April  25th,  though  of  course  the  East  Coast  mine-laying 
submarines  and  the  submarines  in  the  Mediterranean 
carried  on  as  before. 

Before  the  new  orders  reached  the  commanders  at  sea, 
they  had  been  very  busy,  paying  no  regard  to  Prize  Law 
or  other  considerations.  In  the  month  of  April  fifty-six 
British  merchant  vessels  were  intercepted,  and  forty- 
three,  of  141,193  tons,  were  sunk,  with  a  loss  of  131  lives, 
all  but  six,  which  struck  mines,  being  the  victims  of 
submarines.  The  spirit  of  the  seamen,  in  spite  of  the 
latest  threat  of  the  Germans  to  treat  defensively  armed 
vessels  as  men-of-war,  was  unbroken.  Indeed,  whether 
a  gun  was  or  was  not  available,  several  of  the  masters 
put  up  fine  fights.  One  event  occurred  on  the  first  of  the 
month  which  attracted  the  notice  of  the  Admiralty.  The 
Australian  Steamship  Company's  Ashburton  (4,445  tons), 
when  on  voyage  from  Wellington,  N.Z.,  to  London,  was 
about  180  miles  south-east  from  Land's  End  when  the 
master  (Mr.  C.  Matthews)  was  called  to  the  upper  bridge. 
Suspicions  had  been  aroused  by  a  "  stick,"  which  appeared 


to  be  attached  to  a  pear-shaped  buoy  standing  vertically 
about  40  feet  distant  ;  it  was  stationary.  Captain  Mat- 
thews brought  the  "  stick  "  astern  and  then  stood  watch- 
ing it  through  his  glasses.  All  doubts  as  to  what  it 
indicated  were  soon  set  at  rest,  for  it  rose  to  the  surface 
and  it  was  realised  that  the  Ashburton  was  confronted 
with  a  submarine.  A  distress  call  was  immediately 
dispatched,  and  although  the  enemy  signalled  Captain 
Matthews  to  stop,  he  continued  on  his  course  at  full 
speed,  sending  everyone  available  into  the  engine-room 
to  help  with  the  fires.  The  submarine,  after  a  short  delay, 
opened  fire  ;  fifteen  shots  hit  the  Ashburton.  She  gradu- 
ally drew  in  close  and  Captain  Matthews  had  to  admit 
that  escape  was  hopeless  :  the  mast  and  wireless  gear 
had  been  shot  away  ;  the  funnel,  boats,  and  deck-house 
had  been  badly  damaged  ;  and  five  of  the  crew  had  been 
wounded  during  the  fusillade,  which  had  lasted  twenty 
minutes.  The  ship  was  stopped  and  the  usual  formalities 
were  observed.  A  torpedo  dispatched  the  Ashburton, 
and  the  crew,  in  their  two  boats,  were  left  to  fare  as  best 
they  might.  Happily  help  was  at  hand  and  no  lives  were 
lost.  Captain  Matthews  was  mentioned  in  despatches  for 
his  attempt  to  save  his  ship. 

On  the  same  day  the  Perth  (653  tons)  was  torpedoed  with- 
out warning,  with  a  loss  of  six  lives,  when  one  mile  S.E. 
by  E.  from  Cross  Sand  Light-vessel,  as  well  as  the  sailing- 
vessel  Bengairn  (2,127  tons),  165  miles  west -south-west 
from  the  Fastnet.  The  former  vessel  was  at  anchor, 
when  at  midnight  she  was  split  in  two  by  a  torpedo, 
the  fore  part  sinking  at  once  with  the  chief  engineer  and 
four  of  the  crew.  A  somewhat  similar  fate  overtook  the 
P.  &  O.  liner  Simla  (5,884  tons)  on  the  following  day. 
She  was  acting  as  an  Admiralty  transport  and  had  been 
provided  with  a  gun.  This  weapon  proved  valueless, 
for  when  she  was  off  Gozo  she  was  struck  without 
warning  on  the  port  side,  the  stokehold  being  pierced 
and  ten  of  the  engine-room  staff  killed  outright.  The 
survivors  were  rescued  by  a  French  patrol -boat  and  landed 
at  Malta.  On  the  following  day,  April  3rd,  the  Clan 
Campbell  (5,897  tons),  also  defensively  armed,  was 
destroyed  with  a  similar  lack  of  ceremony  and  humanity 
twenty-nine  miles  south-east  of  Cape  Bon,  happily  with- 
out loss  of  life  ;  and  on  the  5th  the  Chantala  (4,951  tons) 


disappeared  fifteen  miles  north  of  Cape  Bengut,  nine  of 
the  crew  being  killed. 

A  far  more  grievous  sacrifice  of  human  life  attended 
the  sinking  of  the  Zent  (3,890  tons).  This  vessel  was 
also  torpedoed  without  warning.  She  was  outward 
bound  in  ballast  from  Liverpool  to  Santa  Marta,  and 
on  the  night  of  the  5th,  at  10.15,  she  had  reached 
a  position  twenty-eight  miles  W.  by  S.  i  S.  from  the 
Fastnet,  when  a  torpedo  penetrated  the  engine-room, 
and  was  followed  by  a  second,  which  struck  the  vessel 
near  No.  3  hatch.  No  ship  could  withstand  such  in- 
juries as  the  Zent  had  sustained,  and  in  two  minutes 
nothing  was  to  be  seen  of  her  ;  her  end  came  so  swiftly 
that  three  boats,  in  which  men  had  already  taken  their 
places,  capsized  as  the  steamer  took  her  dive.  From 
one  cause  and  another  the  death-roll  mounted  to  forty- 
nine  ;  among  the  lives  lost  being  that  of  a  stowaway,  a 
black,  who  had  thought  to  cross  the  sea  safely,  and  at  no 
charge,  in  this  fine  ship  of  the  British  India  Steam 
Navigation  Company. 



When  the  German  Government  first  declared  that  all 
vessels  found  in  the  war  zone  round  the  British  Islands 
would  be  torpedoed  without  warning,  the  route  which 
runs  across  the  southern  end  of  the  North  Sea,  between 
Parkeston  and  Rotterdam,  was,  perhaps,  more  immedi- 
ately threatened  than  any  of  the  approaches  to  British 
harbours.  Zeebrugge,  the  base  of  the  Flanders  Flotilla, 
is  thirty-five  miles  to  the  southward  of  the  central  part 
of  the  track,  which  was  thus  a  first  point  of  attack  for 
all  submarines  on  their  outward  trips  ;  and  every  vessel 
plying  along  the  route  was  in  greatest  danger  when  she 
was  in  the  middle  of  her  voyage,  farthest  away  from  land 
or  naval  assistance.  The  duty  of  maintaining  this  danger- 
ous service  fell,  mainly,  upon  the  captains  of  the  Great 
Eastern  Railway  Company's  steamers,  who  soon  got  an 
accurate  picture  of  the  risks  involved.  Between  March 
and  July  1915  the  steamship  Brussels  was  attacked 
five  times  :  once  when  she  was  commanded  by  Captain 
Fryatt,  twice  when  Captain  Hartnell  was  in  charge,  and 
twice  when  she  was  under  Captain  Beeching.  The 
captains  were  quite  unflinching  ;  they  carried  the  extra 
weight  of  their  responsibilities  without  complaint ;  and  all 
the  steamers  of  the  company  sailed  at  their  appointed 
times,  week  after  week  and  month  after  month. 

The  service  rendered  by  these  men  was  of  the  first 
importance.  War  against  commerce  is  made  effective 
almost  as  much  by  holding  up  sailings  as  by  sinking 
or  capturing  ships,  and  when  the  German  Government 
started  their  war  upon  sea-borne  trade  it  was  feared  that 
one  of  its  most  serious  consequences  would  be  that  of 
suspended  sailings.  The  spring  of  1915  was  thus  a  highly 
critical  time  ;  and  during  the  first  months  of  the  cam- 
paign communications  with  Holland  were  threatened  by 


308  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

the  fact  that  a  considerable  number  of  neutral  vessels 
refused  to  sail.  The  captains  of  the  Great  Eastern  Rail- 
way Company's  steamers  were  not,  however,  intimidated. 
Early  in  April  our  Consul-General  at  Rotterdam  wrote  to 
the  Foreign  Office  calling  attention  to  the  "  highly  meri- 
torious and  courageous  conduct  "  of  the  captains  of  the 
Brussels,  the  Colchester,  the  Cromer,  and  the  Wrexham, 
and  added  that  the  regular  sailings  and  arrivals  of  the 
steamers  had  produced  a  great  moral  effect  locally,  at 
a  time  when  Dutch  and  other  steamships  had  ceased 
running  owing  to  the  nervousness  of  their  commanders 
and  owners.  The  Secretary  of  State  for  Foreign  Affairs 
and  the  Admiralty  wrote  to  the  company  and  asked  that 
their  appreciation  should  be  conveyed  to  all  concerned. 

This  was  the  second  time  on  which  the  Admiralty  had 
expressed  their  admiration  ;  for  they  had  already  con- 
gratulated Captain  Fryatt  for  his  conduct  in  circum- 
stances which  must  be  closely  examined.  Early  in  the 
afternoon  of  March  28th,  1915,  when  the  Brussels  was 
approaching  the  Maas  Lightship,  on  passage  from 
Parkeston  to  Rotterdam,  Captain  Fryatt  sighted  a  large 
submarine  on  his  starboard  bow.  She  was  U33,  just 
starting  out  for  the  English  Channel,  under  the  command 
of  Kapitan-Leutnant  Gansser,  who  signalled  to  the 
Brussels,  which  was  unarmed,  to  stop.  It  was  Captain 
Fryatt's  plain  duty  to  escape  capture  if  he  could,  and  his 
obligation  was  the  more  binding  in  that  the  Admiralty 
had  instructed  all  merchant  captains  to  thwart  sub- 
marine attacks  by  every  means  in  their  power.  Apart 
from  this,  Captain  Fryatt  was  quite  justified  in  thinking 
that  Captain  Gansser's  signals  were  a  treacherous  ruse  to 
make  torpedoing  easier. 

In  any  case  he  was  not  the  man  to  hesitate  ;  he  had 
been  attacked  once  before,  and  his  seamanship  and  know- 
ledge of  his  vessel  told  him  that,  though  the  danger  was 
great,  he  might  still  avoid  it.  He  judged,  at  once,  that 
he  had  no  time  to  turn  and  escape  by  flight,  and  so  altered 
course  to  pass  under  the  submarine's  stern.  U33  moved 
across  the  bows  of  the  approaching  ship  so  as  to  torpedo 
her  when  she  opened  her  port  side,  after  the  turn  was 
completed.  The  two  vessels  were  thus  approaching  very 
fast,  and  the  danger  to  the  Brussels  increased  with  every 
second.     Captain  Fryatt  was  quick  to  see  that  his  first 


manoeuvre  had  been  countered,  but  he  had  another  ready. 
As  the  submarine  crossed  his  bows  he  put  his  helm  hard 
a-starboard  and  made  straight  towards  her.  Captain 
Gansscr  was,  apparently,  not  in  the  conning-tower  at  the 
moment,  and  the  officer  in  charge  gave  the  order  to 
submerge.  It  was  at  once  obeyed  ;  the  Brussels  passed 
about  50  yards  under  U33's  stern  when  she  was  about 
25  feet  below  the  water  ;  and  Captain  Gansser  did  not 
break  surface  again  until  Captain  Fryatt's  ship  was  five 
miles  away.  The  entry  in  the  Brussels^ s  log  is  of  great 
importance,  as  it  was  made  at  a  moment  when  Captain 
Fryatt's  recollection  of  what  had  happened  was  still 
fresh  and  vivid.     It  ran  thus  : 

"  1.10  p.m.  sighted  submarine  two  points  on  starboard 
bow.  I  altered  my  course  to  go  under  his  stern.  He  then 
turned  round  and  crossed  my  bow  from  starboard  to  port. 
When  he  saw  me  starboard  my  helm  he  started  to  sub- 
merge, and  I  steered  straight  for  him.  At  1.30  his  peri- 
scope came  up  under  my  bows,  port  side,  about  6  feet 
from  the  side  and  passed  astern.  Although  a  good  look- 
out was  kept,  I  saw  nothing  else  of  him.  I  was  steering 
an  E.  by  S.  course  at  the  time  of  sighting  him,  and  brought 
my  ship  to  a  north-easterly  course  when  I  was  over  the 
top  of  him.     The  lat.  was  51°  08'  N.,  long.  3°  41'  E." 

It  was  a  modest  way  of  recording  the  achievement. 
At  the  lowest  estimate  of  the  risks  involved.  Captain 
Fryatt  had  saved  several  hundreds  of  his  countrymen 
from  imprisonment  or  worse  and  his  ship  from  capture  ; 
assuming  that  Captain  Gansser  intended  to  act  on  the 
proclamation  of  his  Government,  every  person  in  the 
Brussels  had  been  rescued  from  imminent  danger.^ 

1  Captain  Gansser's  impressions  differed  from  those  of  Captain  Fryatt, 
as  was,  perhaps,  not  tmnatural  in  the  circumstances.  The  entry  in  USS's 
log  was  as  follows  :  "  28.  3.  15.  North  Sea,  light  northerly  breezes, 
visibility  eight  miles.  2.20  p.m.  steering  for  the  Noord  Hinder  Lightship. 
Sighted  a  steamer  .  .  .  heading  for  the  Maas  Lightship  at  full  speed,  and 
showing  no  flags.  At  a  distance  of  four  mUes  I  signalled — Stop  im- 
mediately or  I  fire  ! — at  the  same  time  altering  my  course  towards  the 
steamer.  At  a  distance  of  one  mile,  I  cleared  one  tube  for  action.  The 
steamer  neither  altered  its  coin"se  nor  speed.  U33  making  direct  for  the 
steamer.  At  a  distance  of  500  M  (metres) ,  and  only  a  few  seconds  before  the 
shot  was  to  have  been  fired,  the  steamer  put  her  helm  over,  and  came  at 
U33  with  the  manifest  intention  of  ramming  us.  In  view  of  her  high  speed 
and  the  large  arc  described  by  the  steamer,  it  was  not  possible  for  me  to 

310  THE   CASE   OF  CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

Four  years  later  Captain  Gansser  stated  on  oath  that 
he  had  seriously  thought  of  taking  the  Brussels  into  port 
as  a  prize.  It  was  not,  however,  Captain  Fryatt's  duty 
to  speculate  on  the  nature  of  the  danger,  but  to  avoid  it  ; 
and  how  could  he,  with  several  hundreds  of  utterly  defence- 
less persons  under  his  charge,  have  trusted  to  the  humanity 
of  a  German  submarine  commander  at  such  a  moment  ? 
The  exact  nature  of  the  threat  to  the  Brussels  is,  moreover, 
immaterial,  for  whether  it  were  capture  or  destruction, 
Captain  Fryatt  had  an  equal  right,  and  an  equal  duty, 
to  act  as  he  did. 

The  courage  and  skill  with  which  the  Brussels  had  been 
handled  did  not  pass  unnoticed.  The  Admiralty  con- 
gratulated the  master  warmly  and  presented  him  with 
a  gold  watch  ;  and  on  April  28th  his  name  was  mentioned 
in  the  House  of  Commons  in  answer  to  a  question  by 
Lord    Charles    Beresford. 

During  the  next  year  Captain  Fryatt  continued  in 
command  of  the  Brussels.  His  record  of  service  would 
make  monotonous  reading,  but  it  was  by  no  means 
uneventful  to  him.  His  ship,  like  the  other  vessels  of  the 
company,  was  often  attacked  ;  and  a  high  testimony  to 
Captain  Fryatt  and  his  brother-captains  is  to  be  found 
in  the  fact  that,  by  June  1916,  the  Germans  had,  appar- 
ently, given  up  all  hope  of  interrupting  the  Rotterdam 
service  by  submarines. 

Then  occurred  the  incident  which  led  to  events  that 
moved  the  world  to  indignation.  Late  in  the  afternoon 
of  June  22nd,  1916,  the  Brussels  left  Rotterdam  for  Tilbury. 
Captain  Fryatt  had  orders  to  stop  at  the  Hook  of  Hol- 
land to  pick  up  mails,  which  he  accordingly  did.  By 
11  o'clock  he  was  under  way  again,  steering  for  the 
Thames.  There  was  a  large  number  of  escaped  Russian 
prisoners  and  Belgians  on  board,  and  before  leaving 
Rotterdam  the  British  Consul-General,  Mr.  Maxse,  placed 
an  important  diplomatic  mail  in  Captain  Fryatt's  charge. 
As  they  left  the  Hook,  both  the  captain  and  his  first 
officer,  Mr.  Hartnell,  noticed  strange  rocket  lights  in  the 

make  sure  of  striking  her  with  a  torpedo.  As  observed  through  the 
periscope,  the  steamer  passed  us  at  a  distance  of  from  twenty  to  thirty 
metres,  after  which  she  resumed  her  former  course  at  high  speed.  .  ,  , 
2.40  came  to  the  surface."  The  difference  in  the  times  recorded  by  U33 
and  the  Brussels  is  not  a  discrepancy  between  the  two  accounts.  U33 
yire^s  keeping  Mid-European  time  and  the  Brussels  Greenwich  time. 

CH.  XV]  THE   CAPTURE  311 

direction  of  the  shore  ;  and  when  twelve  miles  west  of 
the  Maas  Lightship  they  distinctly  saw  "  a  very  small 
craft,  probably  a  submarine  not  submerged,"  morsing  the 
letter  *■'  S."  It  was  clear  that  the  ship  was  being  watched, 
and  Captain  Fryatt  issued  strict  orders  that  all  lights 
were  to  be  put  out  and  the  passengers  kept  below.  The 
enemy  was  not  his  only  anxiety,  for  he  knew  that  another 
steamer  was  very  near  him,  steering  the  same  course 
without  lights.  He  could  not  get  a  sight  of  her,  in  spite 
of  a  very  sharp  lookout,  and  at  half-past  twelve  he 
switched  on  port  and  starboard  lights  for  a  few  minutes. 

At  a  quarter  to  one  Captain  Fryatt  became  aware  that 
his  ship  was  surrounded  by  German  destroyers,  and  stopped 
her  when  warned  that  they  were  about  to  fire.  He 
probably  hoped  to  escape  to  the  very  last,  for  Mr.  Hartnell, 
the  first  officer,  seemed  surprised  that  no  firing  occurred. 
Captain  Fryatt  was  calm  and  mindful  of  his  duty. 
His  first  care  was  to  have  the  diplomatic  mail  destroyed 
in  the  engine-room  furnaces,  after  which  he  warned  the 
passengers  to  be  ready  to  take  to  the  boats  if  necessary. 
As  the  last  mail-bag  was  reduced  to  ashes,  the  Germans 
came  over  the  side  with  revolvers  and  bombs.  The  crew 
were  pushed  into  destroyers  pretty  roughly.  Mr.  Hart- 
nell refused  to  follow  them  and  was  ordered  to  the  bridge, 
where  he  joined  Captain  Fryatt. 

The  German  officers  who  took  charge  of  the  ship  were 
very  nervous  and  excited.  The  senior  one  of  them  at 
once  put  the  engine-room  telegraph  to  "  Full  speed  ahead," 
but  as  the  stokers  and  engineers  were  prisoners  in  the 
destroyers,  the  stokeholds  were  deserted  and  nothing 
happened.  The  German  officer  then  drew  his  revolver, 
pointed  it  at  Captain  Fryatt,  and  threatened  to  shoot  him 
dead  if  he  obstructed  the  navigation  of  the  ship.  The 
captors  were  persuaded,  very  reluctantly,  that  the  fault 
did  not  lie  with  Captain  Fryatt,  after  which  they  ordered 
their  own  men  to  go  down  and  work  the  engines.  They 
rushed  below  and,  being  unable  to  read  the  engine-room 
telegraph,  put  the  engines  to  full  speed  astern. 

The  Brussels  reached  the  Schouwenbank  Lightship 
some  time  after  daybreak,  when  the  German  flag  was 
hoisted.  Soon  afterwards  the  Flushing  mail-boat  passed 
close  by,  and  Captain  Fryatt  remarked,  as  he  saw  her, 
that  the  capture  of  the  Brussels  would  be  reported  early. 

312  THE   CASE   OF  CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

He  was  evidently  thinking  of  how  anxiety  and  worry 
would  spread  at  home  when  once  his  ship  was  reported 
overdue.  During  the  forenoon  the  Brussels  arrived  at 
Zeebrugge,  and  after  a  stay  of  five  hours  was  sent  on 
up  the  canal  to  Bruges.  Both  banks  were  crowded  with 
Landsturm  and  soldiers  of  the  Marine  Corps  as  she 
passed  up. 

At  Bruges  the  prisoners  were  landed  and  distributed 
at  various  prison  camps,  after  they  had  been  transported 
over  Germany  in  cattle-trucks  and  publicly  exhibited  in 
the  towns  through  which  they  passed. 

On  June  28th  Captain  Fryatt  and  Mr.  Hartnell  were 
put  into  the  camp  at  Ruhleben.  Barrack  No.  1,  to  which 
Captain  Fryatt  was  consigned,  was  in  charge  of  an 
Englishman  called  Turnbull,  a  man  who  owned  a  business 
in  Hamburg,  where  he  had  lived  for  a  number  of  years. 
He  had  been  dubbed  a  pro-German  by  his  fellow- 
prisoners,  and  rumour  credited  him  with  having  played  a 
very  sinister  part  in  what  followed  :  that  of  getting 
Captain  Fryatt  to  talk  freely,  by  being  kind  and  friendly 
to  him,  and  laying  the  information  so  obtained  with  the 
German  authorities.  Of  this  there  is  no  evidence  at  all. 
Turnbull  was  certainly  kind  to  Fryatt — very  likely 
because  he  was  lonely  and  dejected  at  the  ostracism  to 
which  he  was  subjected — and  it  is  equally  certain  that 
Fryatt  never  concealed  the  fact  that  he  had  several  times 
saved  the  Brussels  from  submarine  attacks  ;  but  there  is 
no  trace  at  all  of  any  information  ever  having  been  lodged 
by  Turnbull  with  the  German  authorities. 

The  Germans  had  enough  information  for  their  pur- 
pose without  tapping  new  sources.  They  had  carefully 
noted  the  statements  made  in  the  House  of  Commons, 
when  Captain  Fryatt's  name  was  mentioned  ;  Captain 
Gansser's  report  of  what  had  happened  on  March  28th, 
1915,  had  been  in  their  hands  for  over  a  year;  and  the 
High  Naval  Command  was  painfully  aware  of  the  part 
which  the  Merchant  Service  had  played  in  thwarting 
their  plans.  These  three  things — not  one  of  which  gave 
him  the  slightest  reason  to  be  ashamed — were  the  cause 
of  Captain  Fryatt's  subsequent  death. 

On  June  30th  Captain  Fryatt  and  Mr.  Hartnell  were 
given  orders  to  leave  the  camp  under  escort.  They  were 
told  that  they  would  only  be  away  for  a  few  days  ;    but 

CH.  XV]  A   VINDICTIVE    PLOT  313 

the  instant  they  passed  the  camp  gates  they  were  for- 
bidden to  speak  to  one  another  and  treated  as  ordinary 
prisoners.  Their  arrest  may,  therefore,  be  said  to  have 
taken  place  at  Ruhleben  on  June  30th,  and  it  will  be  shown 
later  that  this  is  an  important  point.  On  July  2nd  the 
two  prisoners  arrived  at  Bruges  and  were  thrown  into 
jail,  though  no  charge  was  brought  against  them.  What 
happened  to  Captain  Fryatt  during  the  next  three  weeks 
is  known  only  in  its  barest  outlines.  He  was  kept  in  a 
cell  by  himself,  although  allowed,  for  a  time,  to  speak  to 
Mr.  Hartnell,  and  was  frequently  visited  and  cross- 
questioned  by  German  officials.  During  those  visits  he 
never  concealed  the  fact  that  he  had  been  in  danger  of 
attack  from  a  German  submarine  a  year  before  and  had 
escaped  by  steering  straight  for  her  and  compelling  her 
to  dive.  Never  once,  as  far  as  is  known,  was  he  warned 
that  what  he  said  might  be  used  against  him,  nor  was 
any  legal  adviser  instructed  to  act  on  his  behalf  and  warn 
him  of  the  consequences  of  anything  that  he  might  say. 
Did  Captain  Fryatt,  none  the  less,  guess  that  he  was  stand- 
ing into  danger  ?  He  may  have  drawn  his  own  conclu- 
sions from  being  treated  as  an  ordinary  prisoner  and 
from  the  repeated  cross-questionings.  If  he  did,  the 
fearlessness  with  which  he  faced  what  was  coming  does 
him  the  highest  honour,  for  we  can  only  see,  in  the  frank- 
ness with  which  he  supplied  the  material  for  his  own 
condemnation,  a  determination  to  take  all  upon  himself 
and  a  resolute  purpose  that  he,  and  he  only,  should  be 
enmeshed  in  the  cowardly  and  vindictive  plot  which  was 

These  long  cross-questionings  raise  another  question  : 
Who  was  the  directing  genius  of  this  sinister,  methodical 
plan  to  encompass  Captain  Fryatt's  death  ?  All  the 
evidence  available  points  to  Admiral  von  Schroder,  the 
officer  in  command  of  the  Marine  Corps  on  the  Belgian 
coast.  The  laws  of  the  German  Empire  allowed  local  com- 
manders, in  time  of  war,  to  bring  foreign  enemy  subjects 
before  courts  martial,  without  reference  to  the  Central 
Government  or  General  Headquarters  ;  and  Bruges,  where 
the  trial  took  place  and  where  Fryatt  was  subjected 
to  those  interminable  cross-questionings,  was  within  the 
limits  of  Schroder's  command.  Years  later,  moreover, 
the  president  of  the  court — Dr.  Zapfel — stated  positively 

314  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

that  the  trial  had  been  ordered  by  Admiral  von  Schroder, 
and  added  that,  in  his  capacity  as  Court  Martial  Officer 
(Kriegsgerichtsassessor),  he  recognised  no  other  authority. 
Nor  is   this    all.      The    case    of   Captain   Fryatt  became 
engraved    on    the   minds   of   the    local    population,    and 
when  the  German  armies  finally  retired,  Schroder's  name 
was  the   centre  of  a  cycle  of  ugly  stories.      According 
to   one.  Dr.   Zapfel   had   expressed   regret   at  what   had 
happened,  saying  that  he  was  powerless  in  the  matter — a 
curious   remark   from   a  trained   lawyer   who,    as    presi- 
dent of  the  court  martial,  was  responsible  that  justice 
should    be    properly   administered.     Bad    as    the    stories 
were,  there  was  a  peculiar  consistency  in  them  ;    even 
the  terrible  accusation  that  Admiral  von  Schroder  said 
openly  that,  by  a  certain  date,  he  desired  that  Captain 
Fryatt   should   have   ceased  to  live,   assumes   a  sinister 
probability  in  the  light  of    what  happened  later.     Was 
the    proceeding    of    Schroder's    sole    planning,    or    were 
the  high  authorities  at  Berlin  consenting  parties  ?     This 
question  is  not  so  easy  to  answer,  but  such  material  as  we 
do  possess  is  significant  enough.     Towards  the  middle  of 
July  the  British  Consul-General  at  Rotterdam  informed 
the   Foreign   Office   that   Captain   Fryatt   would   shortly 
be  brought  before  a  court  martial,  and  Lord  Grey  at  once 
asked  the  American  Ambassador  at  Berlin  to  engage  a 
competent  counsel.     His  Excellency,  Mr.  Gerard,  brought 
the  matter  to  the  attention  of  the  Imperial  Foreign  Office 
on  July  20th.     He  received  no  answer,  and  sent  in  a  fur- 
ther Note  verbale,  marked  "  Very  Urgent,"  on  July  22nd. 
Only  on  the  afternoon  of  the  26th  was  he  told  that  the 
trial  would  take  place  on  the  following  day.     Why  was 
there  this  delay  of  six  whole  days  in  answering  ? 

On  July  24th,  whilst  Mr.  Gerard  was  still  pressing  for 
a  reply,  the  two  prisoners  at  Bruges  were  cross-questioned 
for  the  last  time,  and  when  the  examination  was  over, 
Captain  Fryatt  was  warned  that  he  would  be  tried  by 
court  martial.  His  candour  and  fearlessness  had  pro- 
duced one  result :  that  he  alone  was  charged  in  the 

But  the  vindictive  diligence  of  Schroder  and  his 
subordinates  did  not  limit  itself  to  amassing  material 
for  the  trial.  They  knew,  well  enough,  how  their  case 
would  be  torn  in  pieces  by  an  experienced  counsel  who 

CH.  XV]  THE  TRIAL  315 

had  been  given  time  to  prepare  his  brief  ;  and,  for  the 
next  three  days,  Captain  Fryatt  was  kept  in  his  cell 
without  advice  or  assistance. 

At  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning  of  July  27th,  Captain 
Fryatt  and  Mr.  Hartnell  were  taken  to  a  waiting-room  of 
the  prison,  where,  to  their  surprise,  they  met  four  members 
of  the  BrusseWs  crew.  Three  hours  later  they  were  all 
taken  to  a  private  house  near  the  town  hall,  where  the 
court  had  assembled.  It  was  called  a  Corps  Gericht  des 
Marine  Corps,  and  differed  from  what  is  known  as  a  field 
court  martial  in  that  its  sentence  could  be  appealed  against. 
It  consisted  of  a  president.  Dr.  Zapfel,  a  trained  lawyer, 
of  five  officers  whose  names  have  not  been  divulged,  and 
a  secretary. 

Before  the  trial  opened,  each  member  was  sworn  in  by 
an  oath  adapted  to  the  duties  of  a  military  court  :  "  I 
swear  by  God  Almighty  that,  having  given  due  considera- 
tion to  the  judicial  duties  imposed  upon  me,  I  will  adminis- 
ter justice  in  accordance  with  my  conscientious  convictions, 
so  help  me  God."  The  formula,  therefore,  imposed  no 
obligation  to  administer  the  law,  and  showed  that  Fryatt 
was  not  arraigned  for  any  offence  against  a  written  criminal 
code.  The  enactment  of  the  German  Empire  which  gave 
the  court  its  jurisdiction  was,  in  fact,  one  which  made 
certain  rules  of  international  law  binding  upon  its  officers  ; 
and  it  was  by  the  set  of  customs  and  usages  known  as  the 
law  of  nations,  in  that  it  derived  its  binding  force  from 
the  established  practice  of  civilised  peoples,  that  Captain 
Fryatt  was  to  be  tried.  Had  it  been  administered  he  could 
never  have  been  condemned. 

As  the  prisoner  and  witnesses  entered  the  court,  an 
officer  in  uniform  told  Captain  Fryatt  that  he  had  been 
ordered  to  defend  him.  This  man's  name  was  Major 
Naumann  ;  he  had  held  a  subordinate  position  in  the 
Imperial  Courts  before  the  war,  and  it  should  be  said  of 
him  that  he  strove  conscientiously  to  do  his  duty. 

The  charge  against  Captain  Fryatt  was  that  he  was 
"  strongly  suspected  of  having  attempted  to  cause  injury 
to  the  forces  of  Germany "  ;  and  that  his  action  on 
March  28th  of  the  previous  year  came  within  the  mean- 
ing of  a  proclamation  issued  to  the  population  on  land  : 
"  All  persons,  not  being  members  of  the  enemy  forces, 
including  civil  servants  of  the  enemy  government,  render 

316  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

themselves  liable  to  the  death  penalty  if  they  undertake 
to  advantage  the  enemy  state  or  to  do  injury  to  Germany 
or  her  allies." 

After  the  indictment  had  been  read  out,  the  president 
laid  before  the  court  a  telegram  from  the  Foreign  Office 
at  Berlin,  asking  that  the  trial  should  be  postponed. 
Major  Naumann  at  once  seconded  the  request,  by  pressing 
for  a  stay  in  the  proceedings,  and  asked  that  the  American 
Embassy  should  be  allowed  to  appoint  a  counsel,  in  view 
of  the  political  significance  which  attached  to  the  trial. 
Unfortunately,  the  matter  had  already  been  decided. 
Admiral  von  Schroder  had  replied,  before  the  court  opened, 
that  the  trial  could  not  be  delayed,  and  Dr.  Zapfel  was  not 
the  kind  of  man  to  resist  him.  The  court  did,  it  is  true, 
adjourn  to  consider  Major  Naumann's  plea  ;  but  they 
reassembled  after  a  few  minutes  and  rejected  it. 

The  prosecution  relied,  in  the  first  place,  upon  the  direct 
testimony  of  Lieutenant  Wieder  and  a  seaman  called 
Richter,  both  of  whom  had  been  in  U33  on  March  28th, 
1915,  and,  in  the  second,  upon  a  written  statement  by 
Captain  Gansser,  who  was  then  serving  in  the  Mediter- 
ranean, and  upon  extracts  from  certain  Dutch  and  English 
newspapers.  The  war  diary  of  U33  was  the  only  document 
contemporary  with  the  event  which  was  produced  in 
court  :  the  log  of  the  Brussels  was  not  exhibited,  although 
it  had  been  in  German  hands  for  more  than  a  month. 
Captain  Fryatt's  defence  might  have  been  based  upon  two 
pleas  :  it  might  have  been  shown,  first,  that  as  he  had 
been  instructed  by  the  Admiralty  to  resist  submarine 
attack  by  steering  direct  for  the  submarine  if  needs  be, 
he  was  outside  the  rules  relating  to  those  who  carry  on 
unauthorised  warfare  ;  and  it  might  have  been  shown, 
in  the  second  place,  that,  in  every  age,  merchant  captains 
have  had  the  right  to  resist  capture,  and  that  the  defensive 
arming  of  merchantmen  had  been  recognised  as  only  an 
assertion  of  that  general  right. 

Had  these  arguments  been  presented,  no  court  could 
have  resisted  them  ;  but  it  had  been  the  particular  care  of 
Admiral  von  Schroder  and  Dr.  Zapfel  to  make  a  defence  on 
such  lines  impossible.  There  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that, 
given  time  for  preparing  such  arguments,  and  facilities  for 
seeing  and  consulting  with  the  man  whom  he  was  called 
upon  to  defend,  Major  Naumann  would  have  made  out  an 


overwhelming  case  :  it  was,  therefore,  carefully  arranged 
that  he  should  have  neither  the  one  nor  the  other. 

Still,  he  did  his  best.  When  the  court  subjected  Captain 
Fryatt  to  a  long  cross-questioning,  he  objected  to  whatever 
he  thought  unfair,  and  he  protested  strongly  against 
admitting  Captain  Gansser's  statement — which  does  not 
appear  to  have  been  an  affidavit — when  Captain  Gansser 
himself  could  not  be  cross-examined.  His  objections  were, 
in  every  case,  overruled,  and  Captain  Fryatt  had  to  face 
the  trained  legal  skill  of  Dr.  Zapfel  almost  unaided.  His 
answers  were  a  perfect  reflection  of  the  man's  nature  : 
even  in  the  mutilated,  shortened  form  in  which  they  have 
survived,  they  echo  the  undaunted  courage  which  animated 
him  to  the  last.  He  never  denied  that  he  had  steered 
straight  for  the  submarine  ;  but  he  was  never  tricked  into 
admitting  that  he  had  tried  to  sink  her.  He  saw  that  there 
was  a  difference  between  thwarting  a  submarine  by  com- 
pelling her  to  dive,  and  attacking  her  outright,  and  he 
clung  to  it  firmly.  He  spoke  with  pride  of  the  watch 
which  the  Admiralty  had  given  him  ;  but  pointed  out  that 
it  had  been  given  him  for  saving  his  ship  from  a  submarine 
and  nothing  else.  One  of  the  most  pathetic  things  in  the 
trial  was  the  way  in  which  the  man's  loyalty  hampered  his 
defence.  Had  he  shown,  as  he  could  easily  have  done, 
that  he  had  acted  strictly  on  Admiralty  instructions  in 
steering  for  the  submarine,  he  would  probably  have  been 
acquitted  ;  for  when  once  he  had  proved  that  he  had 
received  orders,  or  something  resembling  orders,  the 
accusation  of  being  a  franc-tireur  would  have  fallen  to 
pieces.  But  those  instructions  in  which  his  salvation  lay 
had  been  issued  to  him  confidentially,  and  he  never  so 
much  as  hinted  at  their  bare  existence. 

Several  times  the  Court  strove  to  get  answers  from  him 
which  would  have  implicated  the  captains  of  the  Cromer 
and  the  Colchester,  and  presented  the  prisoner  with  an 
extract  from  the  Yarmouth  Mercury  which  must  have 
been  disconcerting.  Captain  Fryatt  refused  to  admit  a 
syllable  ;  and  his  answer  breathed  contempt  for  a  Court 
which  could  admit  matter  so  irrelevant  and  untrust- 
worthy :  "I  heard  the  Cromer  had  been  close  to  a  U-boat. 
It  is  not  right  that  such  things  should  be  published.  Re- 
porters make  mountains  out  of  the  most  trivial  matters." 
Time  and  time  again  Dr.  Zapfel  tried  to  make  Captain 

318  THE   CASE   OF  CAPTAIN  FRYATT        [ch.  xv 

Fryatt  admit  responsibility  for  the  stories  which  were 
current  in  Rotterdam  :  every  time  he  got  back  the  same 
proud  answer  :  "I  never  boasted  that  I  had  rammed  a 

After  the  last  witness  had  been  examined,  Major  Nau- 
mann  made  his  final  effort  on  behalf  of  the  prisoner.  There 
was  no  proof,  he  said,  that  Captain  Fryatt  had  tried  to 
ram  the  submarine,  and  in  its  absence,  he  was  entitled  to 
be  acquitted.  Should  the  Court  take  an  opposite  view, 
judgment  ought,  none  the  less,  to  be  postponed.  The 
evidence  of  the  two  eye-witnesses  to  the  event,  Lieutenant 
Wieder  and  Seaman  Richter,  conflicted,  for  they  each 
described  how  the  submarine  had  been  manoeuvred,  in 
a  different  way.  Until  Captain  Gansser  could  attend  and 
clear  up  the  points  in  dispute,  the  Court  had  neither  the 
right  nor  the  material  to  decide  finally.  When  he  had 
done  speaking  Captain  Fryatt  rose  and  stated  firmly,  but 
without  defiance,  that  "  he  had  done  no  wrong."  "  I  was, 
and  am  still,  proud  of  Captain  Fryatt's  manly  behaviour," 
wrote  Mr.  Hartnell ;  "  and  when  he  rose  to  his  feet  to  speak 
for  himself  there  was  not  a  German  present  who  could 
face  him." 

After  deliberating  for  only  a  few  minutes,  the  Court 
returned  and  found  Fryatt  guilty.  It  was  then  about 
4  o'clock  in  the  afternoon. 

The  Court  had  persistently  refused  to  listen  to  any 
plea  of  postponement  ;  but  there  was  still  a  loophole  of 
escape  open  to  Captain  Fryatt :  an  appeal  for  mercy.  ^  He 
rejected  it,  without  explaining  why  ;  but  his  reason  is 
clear.  There  was  something  so  base  in  asking  for  pardon 
from  men  who,  to  him,  seemed  so  mean  and  cowardly  that 
death  was  preferable  :  better,  a  thousand  times,  to  stand 
by  his  last  proud  claim  that  he  had  done  no  wrong,  and 
lay  it,  intact,  before  a  Higher  Tribunal. 

Captain  Fryatt  was  taken  back  to  the  prison  and  warned 
that  he  would  be  shot  on  the  following  day  ;    but  by  this 

1  There  is  a  certain  amount  of  doubt  as  to  whether  Captain  Fryatt  was 
ever  given  a  chance  of  appealing  at  all.  There  is  no  suggestion  of  an 
appeal  in  the  minutes  of  the  coui't  martial,  and  neither  Mr.  Hartnell  nor 
the  Belgian  officials  at  the  execution  knew  anything  about  it.  It  is 
certainly  most  curious  that  Captain  Fryatt  should  never  have  mentioned 
his  reason  for  not  appealing  to  Mr.  Hartnell ;  but,  on  the  other  hand,  the 
German  Committee  of  jurists  who  inquired  into  the  matter  in  1919  stated, 
positively,  that  Captain  Fryatt  was  given  the  chance  of  appealing  and 
rejected  it. 


time  Admiral  von  Schroder  was  getting  anxious.  The 
telegram  from  the  Foreign  Office  showed  him,  clearly 
enough,  that  the  American  Government  was  taking  steps 
to  secure  a  fair  trial,  and  having  completely  thwarted 
them  in  this,  he  was  anxious  that  no  further  move  from 
high  places  should  come  between  him  and  the  final  accom- 
plishment of  the  work  which  he  had  set  himself  to  do. 
Orders  were  therefore  issued  that  Captain  Fryatt  was  to 
be  shot  that  evening  ;  and  not  even  the  committee  of 
German  lawyers  who,  years  later,  exerted  their  ingenuity 
and  learning  in  excusing  the  whole  business,  and  relieving 
everybody  of  blame,  could  find  one  shadow  of  excuse  for 
Schroder's  decision. 

The  findings  of  this  body  will  be  dealt  with  later  ;  but 
one  of  its  statements  should  be  noted  at  once  :  "  In  re- 
viewing the  case,  the  commission  has  gained  the  impression 
that  the  military  authorities,  though  they  proceeded 
rigorously,  never  failed  to  respect  the  manly  courage  of 
Captain  Fryatt."  If  that  is  so,  it  is  the  greater  shame  to 
them  that  they  denied  him  the  rights  of  a  man  about  to 
die,  and  surrounded  his  death  with  brutality  and  outrage. 

After  the  trial  was  over,  Captain  Fryatt  was  put  under 
the  charge  of  Mr.  Vergaelen,  the  governor  of  the  prison, 
and  was  allowed  for  a  few  minutes  to  walk  about  the  prison 
yard.  Mr.  Schaloigne,  a  political  prisoner,  strove  to 
comfort  him,  and  Mademoiselle  Arens  de  Berteghem,  a 
Belgian  lady  of  noble  family,  who  had  earned  imprison- 
ment by  acts  of  compassion  to  prisoners  and  soldiers, 
seized  his  hands  and  promised  that  she  would  remain 
with  him  to  the  end.  As  they  were  talking,  two  German 
officers  entered  the  yard  and  walked  up  to  Captain  Fryatt  : 
unnerved  by  the  long  trial,  he  clutched  Mr.  Schaloigne's 
arm,  and  asked  whether  they  were  going  to  shoot  him 
outright.  But  the  two  officers  had  come  only  to  watch 
the  nervous  tension  of  a  man  under  sentence  of  death,  and 
when  they  started  to  mock  and  jibe  at  him,  Captain  Fryatt 
turned  away  with  a  gesture  of  scorn.  At  5  o'clock  the 
prisoner  was  taken  back  to  his  cell  and  Mr.  Hartnell  was 
allowed  to  talk  to  him. 

He  had  faced  death  so  often,  in  the  course  of  his  life, 
that  he  viewed  what  was  coming  calmly  ;  but  *'  he  was 
deeply  upset,"  Mr.  Hartnell  has  recorded,  "  at  the 
unfair  and  cowardly  way  in  which  everything  had  been 


320  THE  CASE  OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

done."  Captain  Fryatt  was  still  under  the  impression 
that  he  would  not  be  shot  until  the  following  morning,  and 
it  was  only  towards  6  o'clock  that  a  Lutheran  minister 
entered  the  cell  and  told  him  to  prepare  for  death  at  once. 
Naval  Chaplain  Koehne  had  half  an  hour  in  which  to  bring 
comfort  to  the  doomed  man  ;  and  he  seems  to  have  spent 
a  good  part  of  it  in  trying  to  persuade  him  that  he  had  been 
justly  condemned  for  an  offence  against  the  laws  of  civilised 
warfare.  Fryatt,  it  is  recorded,  nodded,  and  said  that  he 
was  ready  to  answer  for  what  he  had  done.  The  chaplain 
did,  then,  try  to  perform  the  solemn  duty  which  had  been 
laid  upon  him.  He  read  over  the  twenty-third  Psalm 
with  him  ;  and  so  it  was  that,  during  his  last  hour  of  life, 
Captain  Fryatt  heard  words  which  must  have  recalled  the 
green  woods  and  pastures  of  England  to  his  mind,  though 
they  were  uttered  in  the  accents  of  his  enemies.  Had  he 
wished  to  be  assured  of  the  mercy  of  God,  he  would  not 
have  gone  to  Naval  Chaplain  Koehne  for  guidance  ;  and 
his  last  thoughts  were  for  his  family,  not  for  himself.  To 
the  harsh,  unfeeling  stranger  who  stood  beside  him  he 
confided  the  names  of  his  children,  and  he  asked  of  him 
where  his  body  would  lie  ;  when  told  that  it  would  be  in 
Bruges  cemetery,  he  begged  that  a  photograph  of  it  should 
be  sent  to  his  wife.  He  could  not  know  that  whilst  it  lay 
there  it  would  be  tended,  and  covered  with  flowers,  by 
Belgian  ladies,  until  the  day  should  come  when  it  would 
be  carried  back  with  honour  to  the  land  which  he  had 
served  so  faithfully.  Finally  he  asked  the  chaplain  to 
write  to  his  wife  :  a  duty  which  was  scrupulously  per- 
formed in  a  letter  of  400  words,  of  which  nearly  half  were 
devoted  to  explaining  that  Captain  Fryatt  had  been  justly 

Just  before  half-past  six  Captain  Fryatt  was  led  away. 
Mademoiselle  Arens  de  Berteghem  was  on  the  watch, 
and  spoke  to  him  as  he  went  out,  at  the  greatest  risk  to 
herself,  for  he  was  then  under  an  armed  escort  of  German 

To  the  very  end  the  Germans  strove  to  insult  a  courage 
which  they  could  not  break.  Captain  Fryatt  was  taken 
to  the  Caserne  d'Infanterie,  up  the  long  avenue  of  shady 
trees  that  passes  in  front  of  it,  with  a  brass  band  play- 
ing at  the  head  of  the  firing  party.  They  led  him  through 
the  gateway  under  the  two-storied  house  which  stands 


on  one  side  of  the  barrack  yard,  where  the  senior  officer 
present— Colonel  von  Bottelar — stood  smoking  a  cigar, 
with  a  sporting  dog  on  a  leash  beside  him,  and  then  tied 
him  to  an  execution  post  which  had  been  set  up  in  the 
filthiest  corner  of  the  yard,  near  a  manure  heap.  Nothing 
shook  the  prisoner's  composure,  and  he  received  twelve 
bullets  in  his  chest  without  flinching. 

If,  in  the  vast  staff  which  the  German  Government 
employed  to  spread  propaganda  abroad,  there  existed  some 
honest  and  dispassionate -minded  man,  who  traced  the 
impression  left  on  neutrals  by  German  methods  of  war, 
the  effect  of  Captain  Fryatt's  execution  must  have  filled 
him  with  grief  and  shame.  In  America,  the  single  voice 
which  spoke  in  defence  of  the  German  court  martial 
only  served  to  make  the  opposite  opinion  more  emphatic. 
The  entire  press  of  the  capital  condemned  what  had 
happened  in  the  severest  terms,  and  the  New  York  Times 
described  it  as  "  a  deliberate  murder."  American  opinion 
was  not  moved  by  one  of  those  gusts  of  feeling  which 
exhaust  themselves  in  the  clamour  of  the  daily  press. 
The  country  was  deeply  stirred  :  the  case  was  examined 
by  the  most  learned  and  eminent  jurists  in  the  land,  and 
their  sentence  was  unanimous.  Dr.  Monroe  Smith,  after 
weighing  every  argument  that  either  side  could  advance, 
concluded  that  Germany  was  "  endeavouring  to  remodel 
the  existing  code  of  naval  warfare,  in  its  own  immediate 
interest,  and  by  its  sole  authority,"  and  that  "  the  state 
which  assumes  to  be  a  law  to  itself  puts  itself  outside 
the  law."  Dr.  Ellery  Stowell  was  just  as  impartial  in 
examining  the  circumstances,  and  equally  firm  in  his 
conclusions  :  "  The  execution  of  Captain  Fryatt,  under 
the  circumstances  reported  in  the  press,  is  an  inten- 
tional taking  of  human  life  without  justification  in 

The  private  leagues  and  associations  of  America  consti- 
tute one  of  the  strongest  motive  forces  of  its  public 
opinion  :  it  must,  therefore,  have  been  with  mixed  feel- 
ings that  German  residents  in  America  read  a  stirring 
manifesto  issued  by  the  American  Rights  League  : 

"  Although  the  Fryatt  case  is  not  more  shocking  than 
many  other  acts  of  the  German  Government,  it  is  a  clear 
reminder  that  Germany  still  defies  our  ideas  of  law  and 

322  THE  CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

righteousness  .  .  .  and  we  believe  that  American  citizens 
ought  to  consider  the  Fryatt  case,  and  take  whatever 
action  is  within  their  power  to  keep  it  unforgotten  in  the 
pubHc  conscience.  Will  you  write,  or,  better,  telegraph, 
to  your  Congress  man  at  Washington,  to  your  Senator, 
and  to  the  State  Department,  protesting  against  the  execu- 
tion of  Captain  Fryatt  ?  And  will  you  also,  by  personal 
interview  or  by  letter,  bring  the  matter  before  your 
local  newspaper  again  ?  You  will  be  told  that  its  news 
value  has  passed  ;  will  you  answer  that  its  moral  chal- 
lenge has  not  passed  ?  " 

In  Holland  the  Press  was  unanimous  ;  not  even  those 
sections  of  it  which  had  shown  German  sympathies  could 
find  a  word  of  excuse.  The  Nieuwe  Rotter  dams  die 
Courant  could  only  say  that  it  would  "  disgust  neutrals 
and  arouse  fresh  hatred  and  bitterness  in  Britain."  In 
Norway  and  Denmark  opinion  expressed  itself  in  the  same 
way.  What  can  have  been  the  feelings  of  those  Germans 
who  had  seen  the  brains  and  treasure  expended  without 
stint  upon  propaganda,  as  this  thunder  of  disapproval 
rolled  in  on  their  ears  from  every  country  in  the  two 
hemispheres  ? 

It  was  possibly  Admiral  von  Schroder's  wish  to  impress 
the  world  with  the  relentless  character  of  German 
power,  when  he  brought  Captain  Fryatt  to  trial  by 
methods  which  disregarded  the  form  and  substance  of 
justice.  If  so,  his  advice  was  singularly  unfortunate,  for 
all  it  did  was  to  spread  over  the  whole  German  adminis- 
tration a  dishonour  which  should  have  attached  to  him 
and  Dr.  Zapfel  alone.  If  the  trial  and  execution  were 
intended  as  a  deterrent  to  British  seamen,  the  plan  was 
as  contemptible  as  it  was  cruel,  for  the  case  of  Captain 
Fryatt,  his  trial  and  death,  set  up  a  standard  of  conduct 
which  every  British  captain  strove  to  copy. 

In  England  the  news  of  Captain  Fryatt's  death  was 
received  with  indignation  and  horror  ;  and  we  can  do 
him  no  higher  honour  than  to  show  that  our  first  feelings 
have  been  justified  by  time  and  knowledge,  and  that  he 
earned  his  death  by  asserting  a  principle  embedded  in  our 
rights  as  a  Sea  Power. 

The  task  has  been  simplified  by  the  German  Govern- 
ment.     In  April   1919  a  special   Committee   of  Inquiry 

CH.  XV]         THE   COM^IITTEE'S   "  FINDINGS "  323 

assembled  in  Berlin  to  see  whether  international  law  had 
been  violated  by  the  trial  and  sentence  of  Captain  Fryatt. 
In  their  opinion  it  had  not :  nothing  in  the  whole  affair 
called  for  the  mildest  censure,  except  the  haste  with 
which  the  execution  had  been  carried  out.  Obviously, 
then,  Captain  Fryatt's  best  defence  consists  in  answering 
those  who  have  continued  to  assert  that  he  was  justly 

First,  the  Committee  examined  the  technical  procedure 
of  the   court  martial  at  Bruges,  to  see  whether  it   had 
been  competent  to  try  the   case.     They  found  that  the 
Court  was  competent,  in  that  it  was  empowered,  by  an 
Imperial  Edict,  to   try  prisoners   of  war  and  foreigners 
not  belonging  to  the  armed  forces  of  the  enemy,  and  that 
the  procedure  laid  down  for  the  arrest  and  detention  of 
persons  about  to  be  brought  to  trial  had  been  complied 
with.      On  the  first  head  the  Committee  was  probably 
right ;  but  their  ruling  on  the  second  calls  for  comment. 
Paragraph  4  of  the    Imperial  Edict   runs   thus ;     "  The 
first  consideration  with  regard  to  the  competence  of  an 
authority  is  that  the  accused  shall   have  been  arrested 
by  its  subordinates."     The  Committee  of  Inquiry  stated, 
with  regard  to  this,  that  Captain  Fryatt  had  been  ar- 
rested early  in  July    1916,    "  within  the  jurisdiction  of 
the  Admiral  Commanding  the  Marine  Corps,"  and  that 
"  the  competence  of  this  command  was  not  prejudiced 
in  that  Captain  Fryatt  was  first  taken  to  the  civilian 
camp  at  Ruhleben,  and  thence  transferred  to  Bruges." 
All  available  evidence  tends  to  show  that  this  was  not  so. 
As  far  as  we  can  tell,  Captain  Fryatt  was  arrested  at  the 
gates  of  Ruhleben  Camp — which  was  not  in  the  jurisdic- 
tion of  Admiral  von  Schroder — and  there  is  no  proof  at 
all  that  those  who  arrested  him  belonged  to  the  Marine 
Corps.      The  Committee's  findings  are  therefore  suspect 
from  the  start. 

The  Committee  next  dealt  with  the  question  of  Captain 
Fryatt's  defence  ;  but  it  is  not  possible  to  criticise  this  part 
of  their  findings  without  a  brief  examination  of  German 
procedure.  A  long  preliminary  inquiry  takes  place  before 
anybody  can  be  brought  before  a  German  court  martial. 
Those  who  conduct  it  are  appointed  by  the  local  com- 
mander-in-chief ;  and  it  is  their  duty  to  discover  whether 
sufficient  material  exists  to  support  an  indictment  and 

324  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN   FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

a  prosecution.  Their  powers  are  very  wide ;  for  they  can 
examine  witnesses  in  secret,  and  have  full  right  of  access 
to  the  accused  man  if  he  is  under  arrest.  When  they 
have  finished,  an  indictment  is  made  out  upon  their  report 
and  a  day  fixed  for  trial.  Both  the  indictment  and  the 
date  of  the  trial  must  at  once  be  communicated  to  the 
accused  person.  As  the  results  of  this  inquiry  generally 
constitute  the  matter  for  the  prosecution,  a  prisoner  ought, 
obviously,  to  be  allowed  the  advice  of  a  counsel  whilst  it 
is  being  conducted  ;  but  this  the  German  law  denies  him. 
He  is  only  allowed  to  consult  an  adviser  if  witnesses,  who 
will  not  be  present  at  the  court  martial,  are  examined  at 
the  preliminary  proceedings.  In  all  other  cases,  he  must 
face  the  inquisition  by  himself. 

It  is  not  quite  clear  whether  Captain  Fryatt  should  have 
been  given  the  benefit  of  this  permission.  If  Captain 
Gansser  was  examined  by  the  officers  of  the  preliminary 
inquiry,  he  was  certainly  entitled  to  it  ;  for  Captain 
Gansser's  evidence  at  the  court  martial  was  given  in 
writing.  But  the  minutes  of  the  court  martial  do  not 
explain  how  the  evidence  was  originally  obtained.  All 
we  know  for  certain  is  that  Major  Naumann  thought  it 
most  suspicious,  and  maintained  stoutly  that  it  ought 
never  to  have  been  admitted.  It  is  therefore  not  possible 
to  settle  the  point  outright  on  the  available  material ; 
but  we  can  say  that  Captain  Fryatt  was  denied  the  oppor- 
tunities of  defence  which  the  German  law  allows. 

When  the  preliminary  inquiry  is  over,  the  prisoner  is 
allowed  to  choose  his  own  defender  ;  if  he  does  not  do  so, 
the  local  commander-in-chief  must  appoint  one  ;  but, 
even  in  this  case,  he  must  consult  the  prisoner's  wishes.^ 

These  regulations  were  absolutely  set  at  nought  by 
Admiral  von  Schroder,  first,  because  he  never  gave  Captain 
Fryatt  any  opportunity  of  appointing  his  own  defender, 
and,  secondly,  because  he  never  gave  him  the  choice 
between  being  defended  by  Major  Naumann  or  by 
the  counsel  whom  the  American  Embassy  would  have 

The  German  Court  of  Investigation  decided  that  there 
was  "  no  rule  of  International  Law  "  obliging  the  court 
martial  to  accede  to  the  American  Embassy's  request. 

I  German  Military  Court  Regulations  {MilitarstraJ  Gerichtsordnung), 
§§  337,  338,  342. 


Possibly  not,  but  that  does  not  excuse  them  for  disguising 
that  their  own  procedure  had  been  violated. 

Harsh  and  rigorous  as  the  German  military  law  seems 
to  us,  it  assures  an  accused  person  a  proper  means  of  defend- 
ing himself.^  First,  a  whole  week  must  elapse  between 
the  date  on  which  the  indictment  is  communicated  to  him 
and  the  day  of  the  trial,  and  the  period  can  only  be 
shortened  with  his  consent.  Secondly,  he  must  be  allowed, 
during  that  period,  to  communicate  with  his  defender  by 
word  of  mouth  and  in  writing.  Thirdly,  his  defender  must 
have  all  the  documents  of  the  preliminary  inquiry  sent  to 
him  as  soon  as  it  is  over.  Fourthly,  if  the  trial  takes 
place  before  a  week  has  elapsed  since  the  accused  man 
was  first  shown  the  indictment,  the  president  of  the  court 
martial  must  let  him  know  that  he  has  a  right  to  ask  for  a 
delay  in  the  proceedings.  Fifthly,  it  is  particularly  laid 
down  that  if  the  defence  of  the  accused  person  has  been 
hampered  he  may  appeal.' 

The  accused  man  is,  however,  deprived  of  nearly  all 
these  safeguards  if  the  court  martial  is  held  "  in  the  field," 
and,  as  these  words  are  of  great  importance,  it  is  made  to 
be  quite  clear  about  their  meaning.  They  were  defined 
by  a  German  law  of  1898  in  the  following  manner.  The 
regulations  governing  the  procedure  of  the  military  criminal 
courts  held  in  the  field  hold  good  :  (i)  for  the  duration  of 
the  "  mobile  condition  "  of  the  army  or  navy,  or  isolated 
parts  of  the  army  or  navy,  and  (ii)  for  the  garrison  of  a  forti- 
fied place,  threatened  by  the  enemy  so  long  as  the  beginning 
and  the  end  of  this  condition  (of  being  threatened)  has  been 
notified  by  the  governor  or  commandant,  and  (iii)  for 
prisoners  in  enemy  country,  or  theatres  of  operation, 
depots  or  sea  and  coastal  war  zones.  This,  then,  is  the 
clause  upon  which  so  much  depends.  So  long  as  Captain 
Fryatt  was  at  Ruhleben,  or  the  military  district  in  which 
Ruhleben  lies,  he  could  certainly  be  court  martialled,  but 
he  would  then  be  protected  by  all  the  rules  of  ordinary 
procedure.  Once  he  had  been  removed  from  thence 
and  carried  within  the  limits  of  Admiral  von  Schroder's 
command,  he  was  deprived  of  them  all.     No  restrictions 

^  German  Military  Court  Regulations  {Militarstraf  Gerichtsordnung), 
§§  226,  267. 

*  German  Military  Court  Regulations  (Militarstraf  Gerichtsordnung), 
§§  345,  275,  400. 

326  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

would  then  be  imposed  upon  the  Admiral  and  his  sub- 
ordinates ;  they  could  prepare  their  case  as  slowly  and 
methodically  as  they  wished,  they  could  hurry  on  the  trial 
and  the  sentence  as  much  as  they  chose,  and  they  could 
take  full  advantage  of  all  those  rules,  which  for  the  sake 
of  ensuring  a  rapid  procedure,  make  it  so  easy  for  the 
prosecution  to  obtain  a  conviction  and  so  hard  for  an 
innocent  man  to  prove  his  innocence. 

Captain  Fryatt  was,  as  we  know,  taken  from  Ruhleben 
to  Bruges,  and  the  Court  of  Investigation  never  once  asked 
whether  his  removal  was  justified  or  necessary  ;  that  is, 
they  refused  to  admit  any  discussion  as  to  whether  justice 
had  been  administered  in  the  abstract  or  according  to  the 
letter  of  their  own  code  ;  for  Admiral  von  Schroder  was  not 
content  with  trying  the  prisoner  by  extraordinary  martial 
law,  he  actually  broke  its  provisions  in  his  eagerness  to 
obtain  a  conviction. 

It  cannot  be  denied  that  the  field  procedure  cancels  all 
right  of  appeal  and  makes  it  unnecessary  that  a  week 
should  elapse  between  the  indictment  and  the  trial ;  but 
it  still  allows  a  prisoner  the  right  to  choose  his  counsel, 
and  to  consult  with  him  "if  circumstances  permit."^ 
Circumstances  did  permit  and  Captain  Fryatt  was  denied 

Nor  is  this  all,  the  court  left  it  on  record  elsewhere  that 
the  court  martial  procedure  laid  down  in  the  edict  was 
based  on  the  assumption  that  it  would  be  put  into  force 
under  conditions  of  moving  warfare,  and  was  careful  to 
add  that  due  allowance  should  have  been  made  for  the  fact 
that  these  conditions  did  not  obtain  at  Bruges.  Now,  a 
regulation  which  lays  down  that  those  who  defend  court- 
martial  prisoners  must  be  on  the  spot  is  obviously  one 
which  assumes  a  state  of  moving  warfare  ;  for  proceedings 
cannot  be  postponed,  whilst  armies  are  on  the  march,  in 
order  to  allow  a  prisoner  to  consult  a  counsel  who  has  to 
be  sent  for  from  a  place  several  hundreds  of  miles  away. 
As  the  court  brought  forward  this  argument  when  they 
considered  the  execution,  and  ignored  it  when  they 
considered  the  defence,  their  findings  are  both  suspect  and 

Next  the  Committee  considered  whether  the  sentence 

1  German    Military   Court   Regiilations   (MilitarstraJ  Gerichtsordnung), 


of  the  Court  Martial  at  Bruges  had  been  in  accordance 
with  the  evidence  available  at  the  time.  The  question 
before  them  was  whether  Captain  Fryatt's  action  had 
been  in  the  nature  of  an  attack  or  a  defence.  They 
decided  that,  as  he  had  sighted  the  submarine  at  a  greater 
distance  than  he  admitted,  and  that,  as  he  could  have 
escaped  by  flight,  he  attacked  from  the  moment  when  he 
steered  straight  for  her.  In  their  opinion  the  judgment 
agreed  with  the  evidence.  That  was  not  a  proper  way 
of  deciding  whether  Captain  Fryatt  attacked  the  sub- 
marine or  defended  himself.  The  heart  of  the  question 
lies  in  the  German  proclamation  with  regard  to  submarine 
war.  According  to  it  submarine  commanders  had  orders 
to  attack  all  merchant  vessels  at  sight,  so  that  the  mere 
appearance  of  a  German  submarine  was  in  the  nature  of 
an  attack,  regardless  of  its  distance  away  ;  and  Captain 
Fryatt,  in  command  of  a  defenceless  ship,  was  under  no 
obligation  to  limit  his  own  means  of  thwarting  it.  The 
Committee  never  once  discussed  either  the  proclamation 
or  its  consequences,  and  stated,  merely,  that  Captain 
Fryatt's  "  last  manoeuvre,  carried  out  against  a  totally 
defenceless  opponent,  was  in  the  nature  of  an  attack." 
When  a  submarine,  with  torpedoes  in  the  firing  position, 
meets  an  unarmed  merchantman  at  sea,  she  may  be  out- 
manoeuvred, but  she  is  never  wholly  defenceless,  and  a 
body  which  uses  language  of  the  kind  is  not  impartial. 

The  Committee  then  raised  a  further  question  :  Whether 
anything  which  affected  the  Court  Martial's  finding  had 
been  brought  to  light  since  the  trial  took  place.  Two 
documents  which  had  not  been  produced  before  were 
examined  :  the  log  of  the  Brussels  and  the  Admiralty 
instructions  to  merchant  captains.  They  decided  that 
the  entry  in  the  BrusseWs  log  supported,  rather  than 
weakened,  the  main  contention.  The  essential  part  of 
that  entry  was  that  the  Brussels  had  been  "  steered 
straight  for  the  submarine  "  ;  and  it  is  quite  reasonable 
to  say  that  words  of  the  kind  imply  an  intention  to 

The  Admiralty  instructions  raised  a  much  bigger  ques- 
tion :  they  cut  at  the  very  root  of  the  indictment  against 
Captain  Fryatt,  and  cleared  him  of  the  charge  which  had 
been  laid  against  him.  The  instructions  were  in  two 
sections.     In  the  first  merchant  captains  were  given  a 

328  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT        [ch.  xv 

general  warning  about  the  areas  in  which  German  sub- 
marines were  likely  to  be  met,  and  a  set  of  sketches  were 
added,  to  enable  them  to  be  distinguished  at  sight.  Sec- 
tion II  dealt  with  the  best  means  of  escaping  from  an 
attack,  and  opened  with  the  sentence,  "  No  British  mer- 
chant vessel  should  ever  tamely  surrender  to  a  sub- 
marine, but  should  do  her  utmost  to  escape."  There 
were  two  ways  of  doing  this  :  (i)  by  bringing  the  sub- 
marine astern,  and  making  for  the  nearest  land,  and 
(ii)  by  steering  straight  for  her  if  she  was  sighted  ahead. 

Now  these  instructions  destroyed  the  whole  case  against 
Captain  Fryatt.  The  German  military  code  states  ex- 
plicitly that  civilians  who  make  war  under  the  direction  of 
a  "  war  lord  "  cannot  be  regarded  as  francs -tirenrs  ;  so  that, 
even  admitting  that  Captain  Fryatt  had  attacked  the 
submarine  when  he  steered  for  her,  he  was  justified  by  the 
mere  fact  that  he  was  acting  under  Admiralty  instructions. 
How  did  the  Committee  get  over  the  difficulty  ?  By  the 
simple  device  of  discussing  that  part  of  the  Admiralty 
instructions  which  advised  escape  by  flight  ;  by  omitting 
all  mention  of  the  other,  and  by  adding  to  the  findings  of 
the  Court  a  mutilated  copy  of  the  instructions,  from  which 
every  syllable  which  went  against  their  contention  had 
previously  been  expunged.^  The  Committee  was,  there- 
fore, as  dishonest  as  it  was  prejudiced,  and  its  proceedings 
are  the  more  disgraceful  in  that  they  were  largely  directed 
by  men  of  high  legal  position  in  a  country  justly  famous 
for  the  learning  of  its  jurists  and  the  gravity  of  its  Courts. 

But  Captain  Fryatt's  defence  is  not  exhausted  by  the 
mere  exposure  of  the  subterfuges  of  this  Committee.  He 
was  justified  in  acting  as  he  did  by  the  laws  of  England 
and  the  law  of  nations,  and  we  must  now  go  back  to  those 
first  principles  of  reason  and  justice  which  establish  his 

In  one  of  its  last  conclusions,  the  Committee  of  Inquiry 
held  that  the  Court  Martial  at  Bruges  was  right  in  con- 
demning Captain  Fryatt  as  a  ""  franc-tireur  of  the  seas." 
There  is  no  such  thing.  The  guilt  of  a  franc-tireur  springs 
from  the  manner  in  which  land  war  is  carried  on,  and  any 
attempt  to  draw  analogies  from  war  by  land  to  war  at  sea 
breaks  down  utterly.  When  the  armies  of  two  nations 
are  at  war,  all  belligerent  acts  are  directed  against  the 

1  See  Appendices  A  and  B. 

CH.  XV]       LAWS   OF   MARITIME   WARFARE  329 

regular  forces  of  each  side  ;  and  a  general  agreement  exists 
that  the  civilian  population  shall  be  exempted  as  far  as 
possible.  It  is  quite  true  that  this  rule  is  very  often  vio- 
lated ;  but  breaches  do  not  destroy  a  principle,  any  more 
than  successful  thieves  invalidate  the  law  against  theft,  and 
this  general  principle  involves  certain  consequences.  The 
first  and  most  important  of  these  is  that,  as  the  lives  and 
property  of  civilians  are  to  be  respected  by  hostile  armies, 
then  civilians  must  respect  the  exemption  which  they 
enjoy.  In  other  words,  they  must  not  take  up  arms. 
Those  who  disregard  this  obligation  are  francs -tireurs  ;  and 
their  action  is,  in  a  certain  sense,  similar  to  that  of  a  man 
who  assaults  another  without  provocation.  But  if  no 
such  convention  existed,  if  a  civilian's  life  and  property 
were  threatened  from  the  moment  he  saw  an  enemy 
soldier,  there  would  be  no  such  thing  as  a  franc-tireur . 
Would  anybody  suggest  that  a  man  who  had  no  choice 
but  to  fight,  or  receive  a  bayonet  in  his  body,  would 
commit  a  crime  if  he  chose  to  fight  ?  Or  does  any  sane 
person  contend  that  a  man  would  have  no  right  to  de- 
fend his  property  if  the  first  enemy  soldier  he  met  had 
the  right  to  destroy  or  confiscate  it  ?  Obviously  not  ;  a 
man  so  placed  might  lose  his  life  in  defending  his  house  and 
chattels  :   he  would  never  be  3.  franc-tireur . 

Now  it  is  precisely  because  sea  warfare  is  governed  by 
no  convention  similar  to  the  one  which  obtains  in  war 
by  land,  that  the  conduct  of  civilians  and  non-combatants 
at  sea  is  subject  to  a  wholly  different  set  of  rules.  The 
convention  with  regard  to  property  at  sea  is,  that  an  enemy 
may  confiscate  it  if  he  finds  it,  and  the  natural  corollary 
to  this  is,  that  the  owners  of  such  property,  or  the  persons 
into  whose  hands  it  has  been  confided,  may  defend  it  by 
arms  if  they  chose  to  take  the  risk.  That  risk  is,  either 
that  they  may  be  killed  outright,  or  made  prisoners  of  war 
if  captured.  The  general  law  of  nations  acknowledges 
this  right  to  resist,  but  imposes  no  obligation.  The  Eng- 
lishstatute  and  common  law  go  farther :  not  onlyis  a  master 
obliged  to  resist  ;  but  he  is  allowed  to  compel  all  passengers 
on  board  to  assist  him,  and  to  punish  them  if  they  refuse.^ 

There  is,  none  the  less,  such  a  thing  as  illegal  sea  warfare. 
If  the  captain  of  a  merchantman  sailed  about  seizing  and 

^  "  The  Master  Mariner's  Authority,"  WilHam   Senior,  Law  Quarterly 

330  THE   CASE   OF  CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

overpowering  enemy  merchant  vessels,  without  any  com- 
mission from  his  government,  he  would  be  guilty  of  piracy. 
But  piracy  involves  the  question  of  robbery,  and  is  possible 
in  war  as  well  as  peace  :  a  pirate  is  not  a  franc-tireur, 
and  there  is  no  use  in  suggesting  that  the  offence  of  the 
one  is  the  same  as  the  offence  of  the  other  (as  the  Com- 
mittee of  Inquiry  did)  because  the  death  sentence  attaches 
to  both.  A  franc-iireur  of  the  seas  would  be  a  man  who, 
without  authority,  cruised  about  the  seas  in  war-time, 
sinking  all  enemy  ships  which  he  could  find,  simply  for  the 
sake  of  destroying  them  and  taking  life.  To  suggest  that 
Captain  Fryatt's  action  in  March  1915  in  any  way  re- 
sembled such  a  line  of  conduct  was  contrary  to  the  known 

There  is,  thus,  no  rule  of  reason  which  forbids  a  merchant 
captain  to  resist  capture  at  sea,  and  his  right  to  do  so  has 
been  fully  admitted  in  practice.  In  the  year  1799,  a  case 
of  salvage  claims  arising  out  of  the  recapture  of  a  prize 
was  argued  in  the  Admiralty  Court.  The  claims  them- 
selves do  not  concern  us  ;  but  the  words  of  Sir  William 
Scott,  afterwards  Lord  Stowell,  upon  the  right  of  resistance 
to  capture  are  very  relevant : 

"  It  is  a  meritorious  act  to  join  in  such  attempts  ;  and 
if  there  are  any  persons  who  entertain  doubts  as  to  whether 
it  ought  to  be  so  regarded,  I  desire  not  to  be  considered 
as  one  of  the  persons  who  entertain  any  such  doubts." 

This  judgment  was  no  expression  of  a  merely  personal 
opinion  nor  a  statement  of  the  English  common  law  ;  for, 
in  the  very  same  case.  Sir  William  Scott  described  the 
Court  over  which  he  presided  as  a  "  Court  of  the  law  of 

In  the  year  1804,  another  case,  involving  the  same 
general  principle,  was  brought  up  for  decision,  the  question 
being  whether  an  enemy  merchant  captain  who  had  seized 
his  captor's  ship  thereby  rendered  his  entire  cargo,  whether 
enemy  or  neutral,  subject  to  condemnation.  After  hearing 
the  arguments  of  both  parties.  Lord  Stowell  stated  the 
general  principle  in  the  widest  and  most  emphatic  terms, 
and  gave  judgment  accordingly  : 

"  That  there  is  any  ground  for  condemnation  of  the 

CH.  XV]         THE   RIGHT  OF   SELF-DEFENCE  331 

cargo  in  the  conduct  of  the  master  cannot  be  maintained. 
It  could  only  be  the  hostile  act  of  a  hostile  person  who  was 
a  prisoner  of  war,  and  who,  unless  under  parole,  had  a 
perfect  right  to  emancipate  himself  by  seizing  his  own 
vessel.  ...  If  a  neutral  attempts  a  rescue  he  violates  a 
duty  imposed  upon  him  by  the  law  of  nations.  .  .  .  With 
an  enemy  master,  the  case  is  very  different.  No  duty  is 
violated  by  such  an  act  on  his  part." 

In  other  countries,  the  same  question  has  been  decided 
in  the  same  way.  During  the  Napoleonic  wars  the  case  of 
the  Pegou  was  brought  before  the  Court  of  Cassation  in 
Paris.  The  vessel  flew  the  American  flag,  and  had  been  con- 
demned as  a  prize  in  the  Court  of  First  Instance  at  Lorient 
on  the  ground  that  she  had  been  armed  for  war,  without 
any  commission  from  her  Government,  with  "  ten  guns  of 
different  calibres,  musketry,  and  munitions  of  war."  The 
ease  was  learnedly  and  elaborately  argued,  and,  in  giving 
judgment,  Portalis  was  as  careful  in  stating  the  basic 
principle  involved,  as  Lord  Stowell  had  been  in  the  British 
Court.  "  Defence  is  a  natural  right,  and  means  of  defence 
are  legitimate  in  voyages  at  sea,  as  in  all  other  dangerous 
occupations."  ^ 

The  Courts  of  America  have  been  equally  firm.  In  the 
year  1815  the  case  of  the  Nereide  was  brought  before  the 
Supreme  Court  on  appeal.  The  question  for  decision  was 
whether  neutral  goods  which  had  been  put  on  board  an 
armed  merchant  vessel,  flying  the  flag  of  a  country  at  war, 
had  thereby  been  tainted  with  belligerency.  On  this 
point  the  judges  could  not  agree  ;  but  they  were  quite 
decided  on  the  question  whether  resistance  to  capture  was 
lawful.  The  majority  of  the  Court,  in  giving  judgment, 
stated  that  :  "A  belligerent  [merchant]  vessel  had  a 
perfect  right  to  arm  in  his  own  self-defence,"  and  the  judge 
who  disagreed  with  the  general  conclusion  of  the  Court  was 
careful  to  say,  in  his  dissenting  judgment,  that  a  belligerent 
merchant  ship  "  may  lawfully  resist  search."  '  This 
general  right  has  not  only  been  asserted  in  Prize  Courts  :  it 
has  been  regarded  as  so  inherent  in  every  merchant  captain 
engaged  in  trading  and  trafficking  upon  the  high  seas  that 
it  has  influenced  policy. 

*  Pistoye  et  Duverdy  :    Traite  de  Prises  Maritimes,  vol.  ii,  p.  51. 

*  Moore,  Digest  of  International  Law,  vol.  vii,  p.  488. 

332  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

At  the  beginning  of  the  nineteenth  century,  the  revolt 
of  the  Spanish  colonies  in  South  America  started  a  des- 
perate guerilla  warfare  at  sea.  Being  unable  to  equip  ships 
themselves,  the  revolutionary  Governments  encouraged 
American  adventurers  to  man  and  arm  vessels  in  their 
own  country,  and  then  to  sail  for  some  harbour  in  the 
revolted  colonies.  After  receiving  letters  of  marque  from 
the  revolutionary  Governments,  they  preyed  upon  Spanish 
commerce  from  one  end  of  the  Atlantic  to  the  other.  There 
was,  in  all  this,  much  that  was  unlawful ;  but,  although 
the  Supreme  Court  often  refused  to  admit  as  prizes  vessels 
which  the  Courts  of  the  revolted  colonies  had  declared  to 
be  so,  and  though  many  restitutions  were  ordered,  the 
American  Government  never  prevented  the  arming  and 
equipping  of  these  privateers.  So  long  as  there  was  a 
reasonable  chance  that  the  arms  and  munitions  supplied 
were  to  be  used  in  defending  lawful  commerce,  the  right 
of  self-defence  could  not  be  tampered  with  for  reasons  of 

It  would  be  enough  to  limit  quotations  to  the  cases 
cited  ;  for  the  law  of  nations  is  a  set  of  customs,  and  not 
a  written  code  :  it  is  composed  of  what  has  been  done  and 
not  of  what  has  been  written.  Still,  the  opinions  of  high 
authorities  are  valuable,  for  they  may  draw  from  cases 
and  judgments  consequences  that  may  not  be  apparent 
at  a  first  inspection.  In  this  matter,  however,  expert 
opinion  neither  widens  nor  restricts  the  general  principle. 
It  merely  reasserts  it  ;  and  Oppenheim  sums  up  the  con- 
sidered opinion  of  the  jurists — British,  American,  French, 
and  Italian — when  he  states  that — 

"  Enemy  merchant  ships  may  be  attacked  only  if  they 
refuse  to  submit  to  visit,  after  having  been  duly  signalled 
to  do  so.  No  duty  exists  for  an  enemy  merchantman  to 
submit  to  visit  ;  on  the  contrary  she  may  refuse,  and 
defend  herself  '  against  an  attack.'  " 

German  opinion  was  quite  as  firm.  Perels  stated  the 
general  rule  without  the  least  equivocation  ;  Dr.  Wehberg 
repeated  it  in  terms  equally  emphatic  : 

"  The  enemy  merchant  ship  has  then  the  right  of  defence 

1  See  Decisions  of  the  Supreme  Court  of  the  U.S.A.,  vol.  v,  p.  307. 


against  an  enemy  attack,  and  this  right  it  can  exercise 
against  visitation,  for  this  is,  indeed,  the  first  act  of  capture." 

But  the  German  contention  is  not  yet  answered:  This 
right  of  resistance  might  be  admitted,  the  Committee  stated, 
but  only  in  the  case  of  armed  merchantmen ;  unarmed 
vessels  like  the  Brussels  must  submit.  There  is  only  one 
test  to  this  argument  :  Do  modern  states  divide  merchant 
vessels  into  two  classes,  each  with  its  own  status,  duties, 
and  privileges  ?  If  they  did,  the  German  plea  would  be 
sound  ;  but  the  question  has  been  most  elaborately  dis- 
cussed, and  the  decision  come  to  is  in  exactly  the  opposite 
sense.  Previous  to  1914,  the  British  Government  had 
mounted  guns  for  defensive  purposes  in  a  number  of  large 
liners.  As  soon  as  the  country  was  at  war,  British  repre- 
sentatives abroad  were  instructed  to  explain  to  neutral 
Governments  that  such  armament  as  might  be  found  on 
board  liners  visiting  their  harbours  was  for  defence  alone. 
Those  liners  were  still  merchantmen,  and  would  not  be 
converted  into  auxiliary  cruisers. 

The  neutral  Governments  of  Europe  and  America  at 
once  examined  this  declaration.  The  smaller  states  of 
South  America  made  practically  no  comment  on  it,  and 
admitted  armed  merchant  vessels  to  their  harbours  as 
ordinary  trading- vessels.  The  Government  of  the  Argen- 
tine was  more  particular,  and  strictly  enforced  their  port 
regulations  with  regard  to  munitions  and  explosives  when 
armed  merchantmen  visited  Buenos  Aires  ;  but  on  the 
general  principle  they  were  most  explicit  : 

"  Foreign  merchantmen,  which,  without  having  been 
officially  declared  auxiliary  cruisers,  none  the  less  carry 
guns  for  their  defence,  may  not  use  them  within  the 
territorial  waters  of  the  State  .  .  .  but,  as  these  vessels 
have  not  been  given  the  legal  position  of  men-of-war,  any 
act  of  hostility  which  they  may  commit  within  the  territorial 
waters  of  the  State  will  be  regarded  as  a  criminal  action, 
falling  to  be  judged  by  the  laws  of  the  nation." 

Nothing  could  be  clearer :  armed  merchantmen  are 
simply  merchant  vessels.  This  admirable  declaration  seems 
to  have  guided  the  other  large  states  of  South  America  ; 
for  the  Governments   of  Chile   and    Brazil  informed  the 

334  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN  FRYATT       [ch.  xv 

British  Foreign  Office  soon  after  that  they  were  satisfied 
with  the  assurance  given. 

In  the  United  States  the  British  declaration  was 
examined  with  the  greatest  care.  The  question  made 
feeling  run  high,  and,  in  the  House  of  Representatives, 
one  member  after  another  urged  that  British  armed 
merchantmen  should  only  be  admitted  to  American  ports 
as  auxiliary  cruisers.  For  a  time  it  seemed  as  though 
the  Secretary  of  State  might  bow  before  the  storm  ; 
but  Senators  Sterling  and  Lodge  caused  the  question  to 
be  examined  afresh,  and  when  at  last  the  Administration 
made  up  its  mind,  the  decision  given  was  singularly 
emphatic :  "  Merchantmen  of  belligerent  nationality, 
armed  only  for  purposes  of  protection  against  the  enemy, 
are  entitled  to  enter  and  leave  neutral  ports  without 
hindrance  in  the  course  of  their  legitimate  trade."  That 
is,  a  merchantman  does  not  change  its  character  by  the 
mere  fact  that  it  is  defensively  armed,  and  the  rights, 
privileges,  and  status  of  merchantmen  are  uniform. 

The  neutral  states  of  Europe  decided  in  the  same  way  ; 
the  Spanish  Government  simply  made  the  captains  of 
armed  merchant  vessels  give  assurances  that  they  would 
not  use  their  weapons  for  offensive  purposes,  and  treated 
their  ships  like  ordinary  traders  ;  the  Scandinavian 
Government  accepted  the  British  declaration  without 
comment.  There  was,  it  is  true,  one  exception.  The 
Netherlands  Government  refused  to  admit  armed  merchant- 
men to  their  European  ports  in  war-time  ;  but  the  reasons 
for  that  refusal,  on  examination,  leave  the  basic  question 
quite  untouched.  The  Netherlands  Government  never 
suggested  that  armed  and  unarmed  merchantmen  had  a 
different  legal  status,  but  stated  simply  that  the  position 
of  Holland  in  the  North  Sea  made  it  imperative  that  the 
Government  should  protect  its  territorial  waters  from  being 
the  theatre  of  temporary  hostilities.  The  British  Govern- 
ment did  not  like  it  at  the  time,  but  the  argument  was 
reasonable.  An  armed  merchantman  in  the  Flanders 
bight,  steaming  from  a  submarine  at  the  top  of  her  speed, 
might  easily  be  carried  over  to  the  Dutch  shore.  Shots 
would  certainly  be  exchanged  during  the  pursuit,  and  all 
the  tiresome  consequences  of  acts  of  war  committed  in 
neutral  waters  would  follow.  The  rule  of  the  Netherlands 
Government   was   therefore   based  upon  policy  and  con- 


venience,  and,  to  make  its  position  quite  clear,  armed 
merchant  vessels  were  admitted  to  harbours  in  the  Dutch 
colonies  on  the  same  terms  as  ordinary  trading-vessels. 

Europe  reached  the  same  conclusions  as  the  American 
states,  and  the  distinction  which  the  German  Committee 
of  Inquiry  strove  to  make  between  armed  and  unarmed 
merchantmen  was  no  distinction  at  all.  They  only 
attempted  to  make  it  because  the  German  prize  code 
allows  the  right  of  an  armed  merchantman  to  resist 
capture,  and  they  did  not  dare  face  the  consequences  of 
their  own  rule  of  war.  The  right  to  arm  is  meaningless 
unless  the  wider  right  of  self-defence  is  admitted,  and  an 
impartial  body  would  have  confessed  outright  that  Captain 
Fryatt's  action  was  justified  by  reason,  by  practice,  and  by 
the  laws  of  the  German  Empire. 

How  did  the  German  Committee  of  Inquiry  escape  from 
this  cataract  of  testimony  ?     It  argued  that  a  merchant 
captain's  right  to  resist  capture  was  still  undecided,  not 
because  Prize  Courts  had  disputed  it,  or  because  it  had 
been   questioned  in  practice,   but   because  some  writers 
had  asserted  the  contrary.     Upon  what  writers  did  they 
rely  ?     Upon  two  delegates  at  the  meeting  of  the  Institut 
du  Droit  International  at  Oxford  in  1913,  whose  reserva- 
tion on  the  matter  disputed  could  not  have  been  extended 
to  submarine  warfare  ;   upon  a  few  isolated  writers  in  the 
British  daily  press  ;     upon  a  contributor  to  a  publication 
called  Concord;  and  upon  Dr.  Schramm,  who,  "as  con- 
fidential adviser  to  the   German  Admiralty,  voiced  the 
opinion  of  the  German  Naval  Staff."     Having  confronted 
the  accumulated  judgment  of  centuries  with  these  con- 
trary opinions,  the   Committee  of  Inquiry  decided  that 
the  Court  Martial  at  Bruges  committed  no  breach  of  in- 
ternational law  in  following  Dr.  Schramm  upon  a  point 
so  keenly  disputed.     If  the  import  and  meaning  of  the 
law  of  nations  are  to  be  thus  expounded  ;    if  it  is  to  be 
open   to   all   who   wish   to   settle    a   point,  to   pick   out 
opinions  favourable  to  their  own  view  from  the  enormous 
literature  of  international  law,  and  call  them  proof  of 
a  contention,  then,  what   has   hitherto   been    called    the 
science  of  international  jurisprudence  becomes,  at  once,  a 
vast  system  of  casuistry,  which  awaits  the  coming  of  a 
second  Pascal  to  fall  into  universal  contempt. 

But  international  law  is   not   built   up   of  "  probable 
II-  23 

336  THE   CASE   OF   CAPTAIN   FRYATT        [ch.  xv 

opinions,"  nor  is  it  the  product  of  learned  minds.  It  is 
the  recorded  custom  of  civihsed  peoples,  and  the  true 
meaning  of  those  customs  may  be  rightly  or  wrongly  in- 
terpreted. Captain  Fryatt's  innocence  is  alike  attested  by 
British  history,  by  British  laws,  and  by  British  privileges 
at  sea.  He  upheld  a  right  which  is  vital  to  those  who 
go  down  to  the  sea,  and  defended  it  with  constancy, 
loyalty,  and  unflinching  courage.  His  body  now  rests 
in  the  cemetery  at  Harwich,  and  a  memorial  at  Bruges 
commemorates  his  life  and  death.  He  committed  no 
crime  in  national  or  international  law,  and  the  British 
people  instinctively  have  paid,  and  will  continue  to  pay, 
high  honour  to  his  memory  as  a  martyr  to  a  great  cause. 


THE   enemy's    final    PLUNGE 

When  the  German  Government  abandoned  what  was 
in  fact,  if  not  in  name,  unrestricted  submarine  warfare  in 
the  spring  of  1916,  its  Ministers  and  advisers  were  divided 
into  three  groups  of  opinion.  First,  the  Imperial  Chan- 
cellor and  some  of  his  assistants,  like  Helfferich,  looked  upon 
the  concession  as  a  first  step  towards  a  general  peace 
to  be  effected  by  President  Wilson's  mediation  ;  secondly, 
there  was  a  powerful  group  of  military  men  who,  though 
they  did  not  like  submitting  to  American  pressure,  none 
the  less  admitted  that  it  was  the  best  course  to  take  ; 
thirdly,  there  was  the  solid  block  of  naval  officers  holding 
high  rank  who  bitterly  regretted  the  Chancellor's  con- 
cession, and  were  determined  to  reverse  it  if  they  could. 

It  was  only  natural,  perhaps,  that  the  officers  of  the 
German  Navy  should  have  been  deeply  stirred  by  the 
prospect  which  had  opened  before  their  eyes.  Early  in  the 
year  the  Chief  of  the  Staff,  General  von  Falkenhayn, 
had  stated  that  the  German  Army  could  not  finish  the 
war  without  naval  co-operation  ;  and  the  assistance  for 
which  he  craved  was  an  attack  on  the  Allied,  and  particu- 
larly the  British,  lines  of  communication  so  powerful 
that  it  would  sensibly  diminish  the  volume  of  military 
supplies  to  the  chief  theatres  of  war. 

Falkenhayn's  appeal  had  produced  a  remarkable  effect 
on  naval  opinion,  and  particularly  on  the  junior  officers 
and  no  small  proportion  of  the  men.  He  had  suggested 
that  the  hour  had  struck  for  the  young  German  Navy  to 
win  lasting  glory.  It  had  lived  since  its  birth  in  humiliating 
subordination  to  the  other  service,  and  now  saw  a  unique 
opportunity  in  the  Chief  of  the  Staff's  admission.  Could 
they  but  carry  through  the  task  assigned  to  them,  the 
share  of  German  naval  officers  would  be  equal  to  that  of 
the  leaders  of  the  Army  ;  they  would  rank  in  fame  with  the 


338  THE   ENEMY'S   FINAL   PLUNGE         [ch.  xvi 

Roman  Consul  who  "  had  not  despaired  of  the  repubhc  " 
in  her  darkest  hours  ;  they  would  be  raised  to  an  equal 
place  in  German  history  with  the  Scharnhorsts,  the 
Derfiaingers,  and  the  Bluchers  ;  and  they  would  live  in 
future  years  as  the  men  whom  Imperial  Germany  delighted 
to  honour. 

During  the  ten  months  between  May  1916  and  February 
1917,  two  of  these  currents  of  opinion  struggled  for  mas- 
tery, for  the  military  party,  which  "  pursued  the  middle 
course,"  soon  disappeared  and  was  replaced  by  another 
which  became  the  chief  advocate  of  the  strictly  naval 
standpoint.  The  Chancellor,  striving  for  a  negotiated 
peace,  was  thus  confronted  with  a  navy,  supported  in 
influential  quarters,  demanding  submarine  warfare  on 
a  scale  which  would  make  negotiations  impossible.  In 
the  end  the  Navy  won  ;  but  it  was  only  by  a  narrow 

It  is  not  within  the  scope  of  this  history  to  trace  the 
diplomatic  negotiations  carried  on  by  the  Chancellor  and 
Count  Bernstorff  during  this  ten  months ;  both  men 
pressed  them  forward  steadily  and  ably,  and,  as  they 
worked  with  the  Emperor's  full  approval,  they  were  able 
to  keep  naval  pressure  in  check,  so  long  as  they  had  the 
smallest  hope  of  success.  The  naval  leaders  thus  saw 
the  splendid  perspective,  which  had  been  opened  to  them 
by  General  von  Falkenhayn's  appreciation,  grow  fainter 
and  more  distant,  but  they  never  despaired  of  reaching 
their  goal,  and  the  history  of  the  submarine  campaign 
between  April  1916  and  February  1917  is  the  history  of 
the  German  Navy's  effort  to  make  its  will  prevail  in  the 
Empire's  councils. 

At  the  outset  they  had  to  secure  union  amongst  them- 
selves, for  they  were  sharply  divided.  Admiral  Scheer, 
in  command  of  the  High  Seas  Fleet,  hoped  to  force  the 
hand  of  those  with  whom  the  decision  lay,  by  refusing 
to  allow  the  submarines  to  operate  against  commerce  like 
surface  cruisers,  claiming  that  the  conditions  exposed 
officers  and  men  to  risks  which  they  should  not  be  called 
upon  to  face,  and  that,  in  any  event,  the  limited  warfare 
could  not  attain  its  objective.  By  sullenly  adopting  an 
"  all  or  nothing  "  attitude,  and  by  keeping  the  submarine 
flotillas  idle  at  their  moorings  in  the  Jade  and  the  Ems, 
he  seems  to  have   hoped  that  he   would  raise  such  in- 


dignation  in  the  hard-pressed  Fatherland  that  the 
Chancellor  would  be  compelled  to  give  way.  Admiral 
von  Holtzendorff  was  convinced  that  such  an  attitude 
was  unwise.  He  was  in  favour  of  keeping  the  submarines 
at  work  in  order  to  make  their  achievements  the  basis 
of  a  demand  for  greater  latitude.  His  view  prevailed, 
and  the  first  phase  of  this  new  period  is  the  one  in  which 
the  German  submarines  adapted  themselves  to  their  new 
orders,  and  endeavoured  to  show  what  results  they  could 
achieve  in  spite  of  their  adherence,  more  or  less  strictly, 
to  the  restrictions  of  cruiser  warfare.  This  phase  stretched 
right  on  into  the  autumn  of  the  year  1916,  by  which  time 
the  U-boats  had  crawled  down  the  trade  routes  and  were 
operating  off  the  Azores,  on  the  track  to  Archangel,  in  the 
White  Sea,  and  on  the  western  side  of  the  Atlantic.  The 
British  Naval  Staff  in  Whitehall  had  watched  their  prog- 
ress with  the  anxiety  of  a  physician  who  studies  the  steady, 
unrelenting  spread  of  a  harmful  symptom. 

In  the  next  phase  the  U-boats  closed  up  their  areas  of 
activity  slightly  ;  and  in  the  third  and  last  they  steadily 
and  persistently  intensified  their  efforts  in  the  theatres 
which  their  experience  had  shown  to  be  most  promising. 
This  final  period  simply  marks  an  effort  on  the  part  of  the 
Navy  to  break  through  the  restrictions  by  which  they 
were  bound.  Its  incidents  supply  proof  of  what  Karl 
Helfferich  had  foreseen  when  he  said  :  "I  could  never 
get  it  out  of  my  mind  that  when  the  Lords  of  the  Navy 
said  extended  submarine  warfare,  they  meant  unrestricted 
submarine  warfare."  The  remark  was  true.  During 
the  autumn  months  of  1916  the  number  of  vessels 
sunk  without  warning  rose  steadily,  until,  at  the  begin- 
ning of  the  New  Year,  the  pretence  of  attacking  com- 
merce according  to  the  rules  of  cruiser  warfare  had  worn 
very  thin  ;  and  when,  in  February  1917,  the  Chancellor 
announced  that  Germany  was  compelled  to  resume 
intensive  submarine  warfare  owing  to  the  rejection  of  her 
peace  proposals,  he  was  announcing  what  had,  to  all 
intents  and  purposes,  become  an  accomplished  fact. 

The  execution  of  Captain  Fryatt  at  the  end  of  July, 
and  the  indignation  which  that  event  aroused  throughout 
the  civilised  world,  was  not  without  its  influence,  as  has 
been  suggested,  on  the  enemy's  submarine  policy.  The 
result  of  the  Battle  of  Jutland   had  prompted  Admiral 

340  THE   ENEMY'S   FINAL   PLUNGE  [ch.  xvi 

Scheer  to  renew  his  representations  to  the  Emperor. 
"  A  victorious  end  to  the  war  at  not  too  distant  a  date," 
he  wrote,  "  can  only  be  looked  for  by  the  crushing  of 
English  economic  life  through  U-boat  action  against 
English  commerce."  The  advice  of  the  Commander- 
in-Chief  of  the  High  Sea  Fleet  in  favour  of  intensive 
warfare  was,  however,  unacceptable  at  the  moment,  and 
the  record  of  ship  sinkings  during  the  month  of  August 
reflected  the  confusion  of  policy  which  prevailed  in 
the  official  world  of  Germany  at  this  period.  During 
August  only  twenty-two  ships,  of  42,553  tons,  were  sunk 
by  submarine,  with  the  loss  of  five  lives.  The  one  vessel 
which  was  torpedoed  without  warning  was  the  Aaro 
(2,603  tons).  A  wireless  message  from  Berlin  announced, 
in  pursuance  with  the  official  German  policy  of  the 
moment,  that  the  Aaro  had  been  blown  up  by  a  "  war- 
ship," it  being  added  that  "  there  seems  to  be  little  hope 
of  anyone  being  saved."  The  deliberate  misrepresenta- 
tion was  only  revealed  later  on.  While  on  a  voyage  to 
Christiania  the  ship  was  sunk  in  the  North  Sea  by  a 
submarine.  Only  three  lives  were,  in  fact,  lost,  and  the 
remainder,  including  the  master  (Mr.  Harry  Newton), 
were  taken  prisoners  and  interned  at  Tielmen.  On  the 
same  day  the  Heighington  (2,800  tons)  was  captured  and 
torpedoed  off  Cape  Serrat.  On  succeeding  days  a  number 
of  small  ships  were  secured  by  the  enemy,  but  in  no  case 
were  any  members  of  the  crew  either  killed  or  taken 

During  this  period  the  enemy  still  continued  his  activities 
in  the  Mediterranean.  The  remainder  of  the  month  sup- 
plied only  two  outstanding  incidents — the  destruction  of 
the  Swedish  Prince  (3,712  tons)  in  the  Eastern  Mediter- 
ranean, when  on  passage  to  Bizerta,  and  the  loss  of  the 
Duart  (3,108  tons)  off  the  Algerian  coast  on  the  31st.  On 
the  morning  of  the  17th  the  former  vessel  was  steaming 
in  company  with  the  Astereas  when  a  submarine  was  seen. 
The  Swedish  Prince,  which  had  a  gun  on  board,  immediately 
warned  her  unarmed  companion  of  the  submarine's 
presence,  and  both  vessels  altered  course  to  southward  at 
full  speed.  Within  a  quarter  of  an  hour  a  duel  had 
developed  between  the  enemy  and  the  defensively  armed 
merchantman,  but  the  3-pounder  gun  of  the  British 
vessel  proved  useless  at  the  range  selected  by  the  sub- 


marine.  Nine  or  ten  shots  struck  the  Swedish  Prince,  the 
second  officer  receiving  wounds  from  which  he  afterwards 
died.  The  contest  was  a  hopeless  one,  so  the  master  (Mr. 
J.  A.  Halloway)  at  last  ordered  the  engines  to  be  stopped. 
While  preparations  were  being  made  to  abandon  the  ship, 
the  submarine  continued  firing,  and  then,  coming  alongside 
the  ship's  boats  to  which  the  crew  had  taken  refuge,  made 
Captain  Halloway,  the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  William  Poole), 
and  the  gunner,  a  Frenchman,  prisoners.  The  chief 
officer  and  the  remainder  of  the  crew  eventually  reached 
Port  Pantellaria  without  further  misadventure.  The 
Duart  on  the  last  day  of  the  month  fell  a  victim  to  an 
Austrian  submarine. 

Of  the  thirteen  ships,  of  34,862  tons,  which  escaped  cap- 
ture in  August,  possibly  the  most  notable  case  was  that 
of  the  little  Hull  steamer,  the  Destro  (859  tons).  On  the 
afternoon  of  August  3rd,  when  nine  miles  N.E.  by  E. 
of  Coquet  Island,  a  submarine  opened  fire  from  her 
two  guns.  The  master  of  the  Destro  (Mr.  Edward  B. 
Johnson)  had  no  defence  except  his  speed,  but  he  at  once 
brought  the  submarine  astern  of  him.  Time  and  again 
the  Destro  was  hit.  The  enemy  repeatedly  manoeuvred  to 
get  on  the  quarter  of  the  British  vessel.  At  last  Captain 
Johnson  thought  an  opportunity  offered  to  ram  the  enemy, 
so  he  put  his  helm  hard  over,  but  the  submarine  did  the 
same.  As  a  result  of  this  manoeuvre,  the  Destro  gained  an 
increased  lead,  but  it  was  not  until  the  unequal  action  had 
lasted  fifty  minutes  that  the  enemy  abandoned  the  chase. 
By  that  time  the  ship's  boats  had  been  badly  damaged  by 
gunfire  and  the  funnel  had  been  holed,  making  stoking 
very  difficult,  while  the  bridge  and  deck-house,  as  well  as 
the  ladders  and  compass,  had  all  suffered  in  greater  or  less 
degree.  Captain  Johnson  was  awarded  the  D.S.C.  for  his 
determined  resistance,  and  the  chief  engineer  (Mr.  T, 
Martin)  was  mentioned  in  despatches. 

Another  illustration  of  the  fine  courage  which  British 
seamen  were  exhibiting  was  furnished  by  the  Strathness 
(4,345  tons).  She  was  in  the  Mediterranean  when  she  was 
attacked  at  a  range  of  5,000  yards.  The  enemy  dis- 
charged thirty  shots  without  hitting  the  ship,  and  the 
Strathness,  with  her  15-pounder,  replied  with  twenty-five 
rounds  ;  one  of  them  struck  the  submarine  and  caused  a 
large  volume  of  smoke  to  rise  from  her.     Her  captain 

342  THE   ENEMY'S  FINAL   PLUNGE         [ch.  xvi 

evidently  concluded  that  he  had  met  a  tartar  and  made 
off.  For  the  second  time  in  the  course  of  a  short  period, 
the  master  (Mr.  David  Thompson)  had  fought  a  successful 
action  against  submarines,  and  he  was  mentioned  in 

The  losses  in  September  rose  ;  thirty-four  ships,  of  84,596 
tons,  were  destroyed  by  submarines  and  sixteen  lives  were 
sacrificed.  Nine  ships  were  sunk  without  warning,  supply- 
ing an  indication  of  the  little  respect  which  some  of  the 
German  officers  operating  at  sea  had  for  the  superior 
orders  which  they  had  received.  All  these  infractions  of 
the  rules  of  cruiser  warfare  happened  in  the  Mediterranean. 
The  heaviest  loss  of  life  occurred  in  the  latter  half  of  the 
month,  when  the  enemy  exhibited  a  new  phase  of  ruthless- 
ness.  Six  members  of  the  crew  of  the  Inverbervie  (4,309 
tons)  were  killed  on  the  14th,  and  three  days  later  the  Lord 
Tredegar  (3,856  tons)  and  the  Dewa  (3,802  tons)  went  down 
off  Malta,  four  lives  and  three  lives  respectively  being  lost. 
Throughout  the  month  the  enemy  pursued  the  new  policy 
of  making  prisoners,  taking  off  defensively  armed  ships 
the  gunners  as  well  as  the  masters. 

The  story  of  the  circumstances  in  which  the  Roddam 
(3,218  tons)  was  captured  seventy-six  miles  east-south- 
east from  Barcelona  may  serve  as  an  example  of  the 
conditions  in  which  merchant  shipping  at  this  period 
was  carried  on.  On  the  morning  of  September  26th 
the  Roddam  was  making  her  way  home  to  England, 
when  a  French  torpedo-boat  destroyer  signalled  that 
a  submarine  had  been  seen  some  hours  before,  making 
a  course  which  would  bring  her  near  the  Roddam.  The 
master  changed  his  course  and  went  on  his  way.  A 
short  time  afterwards  another  French  destroyer  issued 
another  warning,  and  gave  the  master  a  change  of 
course  which  would,  it  was  thought,  ensure  the  safety 
of  his  ship.  As  soon  as  she  was  well  away  on  her  new 
course,  a  submarine  opened  fire  at  long  range.  The 
weather  was  fine  and  the  atmosphere  clear,  but  the  captain, 
though  he  must  have  realised  the  penalty  he  was  incurring 
at  the  hands  of  the  enemy — the  submarine  was  flying  the 
Austrian  flag — ran  up  his  ensign  and  replied  with  the  one 
little  gun  available.  The  resistance  was,  of  course,  hope- 
less, but  it  was  characteristic  of  the  spirit  in  which  merchant 
seamen  of  this  period  were  confronting  the  enemy.      We 

CH.  XVI]       A   PLAIN   TALE   FROM   THE   SEA  343 

have  in  the  sworn  statement  of  the  second  officer,  Mr.  A.  A. 
French,  an  unadorned  record  of  the  way  in  which  the  ship 
met  her  fate  : 

"  At  4  o'clock  p.m.  I  was  reheved  from  the  bridge  and 
went  below  at  about  half -past  four.  I  heard  a  shell  come 
across  the  bridge,  and  I  then  ran  up  to  the  bridge  and  saw 
the  submarine  at  about  4.35  p.m.  The  captain  gave  me 
the  order  to  keep  the  ship's  stern  to  the  submarine  and 
ordered  the  gunners  to  return  fire,  which  was  done.  We 
ran  for  about  fifteen  minutes  until  a  shell  exploded  in  the 
chart-house.  The  captain  then  ordered  the  boats  to  be 
got  ready.  The  gunners  came  aft  and  reported  that  we 
were  hopelessly  outranged.  The  ship  was  stopped  and 
the  boats  pulled  away. 

"  The  submarine  when  first  seen  was  three  and  a  half  to 
four  miles  away,  and  remained  at  that  distance  ;  the  range 
of  our  gun,  which  was  a  6-pounder,  was  only  two  miles,  and 
all  our  shots  dropped  short.  The  submarine  fired  some 
twenty  shots  at  us  and  we  fired  about  ten  in  return.  The 
submarine  came  up  to  my  boat  (the  master's  boat)  and 
told  the  captain  he  was  a  prisoner  for  having  fired  upon 
him.  The  commander  of  the  submarine  then  took  the 
captain  on  board  and  sent  him  below.  Noticing  that  our 
boat  was  holed,  the  submarine  towed  us  back  to  our  ship, 
allowing  us  to  go  on  board  to  get  another  boat  as  long  as 
we  kept  away  from  the  gun  platform.  We  went  on  board 
and  lowered  the  motor-boat  out,  into  which  I  placed  eight 
men.  About  this  time  we  lost  sight  of  the  mate's  boat 
and  did  not  see  her  again.  When  we  were  off  the  ship  the 
submarine  approached  and  fired  four  shots  into  the 
Roddam  ;  when  we  last  saw  her  at  7  p.m.,  when  it  fell 
dark,  she  had  a  very  heavy  list  and  was  sinking.  We 
were  picked  up  by  the  French  motor  patrol  Frippone  next 
day  at  1  p.m.,  and  taken  to  Marseilles.  .  .  .  When  I 
went  on  board  I  found  the  cabin  saloon  and  chart-house 
all  smashed  up  by  the  shell  which  struck  us." 

Whether  any  of  the  officers  and  men  of  the  Roddam 
would  live  to  t